The Truly Confounding Spinning Man Deconstructed and Explained
The Truly Confounding Spinning Man Deconstructed and Explained - or how this confusing movie only gets more confusing the deeper you look at it. IMDB
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I am literally doing breathing exercises to stay calm currently. Having just finished watching Spinning Man, I know it is going to be a serious lift to get us through this film. Why? Because it is so confoundingly good. Matthew Aldrich has done a masterful job with the screenplay of George Harrar’s book. And any movie that headlines, Guy Pearce, Pierce Brosnan, and Minnie Driver? You are going to have to have a good movie on your hands. But what ISN’T guaranteed is an open ended mindjob, which, my friends, is what we have here today.

So, get out your paper bags, breathe into them occasionally to control your breathing, and let’s do this thing.

Right, so if you’ve never heard of Spinning Man, it’s now watchable via Amazon, and you use my link here, you’ll help me in a small way, to keep this space as a great location for arguing, discussing, and debating these great movie. I happened to just miss its theatrical run, but was reinvigorated to watch after Yoanna posted we should all watch it here on the site.

Basically, Spinning Man is a really clever quasi-non-linear, murder mystery thriller that is engineered to leave you wondering at the end of the film, “WHAT THE HECK?!?” And those movies? Those movies are catnip to us at THiNC., right? Right. The movie opens with a missing teenager and an intense investigation into where she’s gone. And we are also given a shot of the lake, where we see from our all knowing vantage, that this particular teenager? Yeah, she’s already dead at the bottom of the town’s lake. Evan Birch (played by Guy Pearce) is a professor of an unnamed college. And when Joyce (played by Odeya Rush), a cheerleader from a nearby high school goes missing, it is Evan that slowly but surely becomes the primary suspect. And it is up to Detective Malloy (played by Pierce Brosnan) to untangle the conflicting evidence he is uncovering at a rapid pace. 

I am nearly certain that most people won’t really enjoy this movie. Why? Because this one is going to take work, and thought, to unpack. You are actually the true detective of this film. The only one that will effectively determine what really happened to Joyce. But you? You are going to like it. Because, look at you…! You are smart. And inquisitive. You are DETERMINED! And if I were you, I wouldn’t watch this trailer. Just go pick up a copy of Spinning Man, a notebook, a bic pen, and some popcorn, and then come on back to join in on the discussion that is about to explode right here.

Alright – from here on out, be dragons. One enormous confluence of a billion Spinning Man Spoilers. Readers beware. You’ve been warned.

The movie Spinning Man has three key timeline threads to it that would look something like this

 ——- > 1 ——- > 2 ——- > 3

  1. Joyce encounters man and ends up dead
  2. Malloy hunts the killer
  3. Evan walks into Malloy’s office

(An argument could be made for four. The fourth would be Evan’s and Ellen’s time in Evanston, near Chicago.) It’d be more like this:

——- > 1 ——- > 2 ——- > 3 ——- > 4

  1. Evan and Ellen leave Chicago because of affair allegation
  2. Joyce encounters man and ends up dead
  3. Malloy hunts the killer
  4. Evan walks into Malloy’s office

But we’ll get into whether this first (or fourth) segment is relevant in good time dear random reader. (See what I did there? You know… with the alliteration, and whatnot?)

Let’s just stick with timeline one. Simpler. And I’m already confused. So yeah, the crime occurred five weeks ago – that is thread one. Thread two, where most of the movie occurs, is the unraveling of Evan’s life as Detective is investigating what happened to the teen. And thread three? That is the ending of the movie, which we open with. Evan walks into Detective Malloy’s office and asks the question, “Do you ever have issues remembering things?” And the tricky bit is that for the first quarter of the movie, it bounces back and forth, until it finally settles down into timeline two.

So, with that question from Evan, we have the foundational question of the movie. Did Evan kill the girl, and just forget? Is Evan a reliable narrator of events? Has Evan been up to things that even he is unaware of? Everything is totally up for grabs in this movie.

From thread three, we dive backwards into thread one, the beginning, where we see Joyce, who is excitedly awaiting someone’s arrival. We learn later from her diary, that this someone is an older gentleman. We see a man, steeped in tweed, exiting a Volvo, but we don’t see who it is, just his back through the rearview mirror. And we are decisively lead to believe, that it is Evan that was with Joyce before she died.

Spinning Man and Malloy’s Investigation

And quickly we learn that Detective Malloy is on the case and looking for Joyce’s killer. More importantly, we see a conversation between Evan, and another professor, Ross, who was pontificating about the morality of sleeping with a student. And Evan makes it clear that he wouldn’t sleep with the student, “beside the blatant breach of professional ethics, I have my marriage to consider…” Got that? He has a wife to consider. Check!

Later, when Evan is out at a hardware store picking up a mouse trap, (which, I posit, is an ongoing leitmotif throughout the entire movie… watch, you will see) when Evan has a lurid affair with a woman working at the store, right there in the aisle. Except? It was 100% in his mind. At least we are pretty sure that it was just in his mind. You see how this is going to get stickier and stickier don’t you? Right, good. Well, when Evan arrives home he finds himself getting hauled into the police department after refusing to allow his Volvo to be search.

And, what Malloy needs to figure out is, where was Evan when Joyce went missing? Ellen had said that Evan was picking up their daughter from camp that day. But Evan didn’t want the cops into his car. Why? Well, he says, the 4th amendment. Hrmmm.

The Spinning Man and the Limits of Truth

During one of Evan’s lectures they begin to discuss the details of Zeno’s Paradox. You know the one. In attempting to cross the room, I cross a quarter of the room. Then a quarter. And I never am able to make it fully across the room. The point being, that the limits of language uncovers the supposed limits of truth. Evan surmises that it is impossible for him to tell the truth. Rather, he is only able to communicate the truth that he can perceive.

Which, is significant. On like a billion different levels. Most of which have nothing to do with this movie at all. But, I’ll leave all those to go… and concentrate on the relativism that Evan is espousing, and what it means for our ability to understand this movie. And what it means for who killed Joyce. Because this movie isn’t going to help us. We are going to have to do it ourselves. The idea of Truth, used to be reserved for theologians and philosophers to delineate. Until, the Enlightenment. All rational beings were able to posit and test for truth. Science made it possible for mankind to use data, and measurements, to find true and false classifications. SIMPLE! But, then that brings us to Søren Kierkegaard – who said that science, while capable of producing facts, and information, that it was not capable of discerning the kinds of truths that has been sought for by generations and eons of people.

And later on, in a conversation between Anna and Professor Birch (sorry, that was a bit of tongue in cheek there, Evan), they discus Wittgenstein and his ability to argue the limits of truth during the day, and have sex with men in the park at night. The point being, he didn’t seem to be bound by the morality and truth that he was arguing for. Which, from Anna’s perspective seemed utterly duplicitous and wrong. But Evan argues, that Truth is. It’s immaterial to the person’s morality. And, what we do learn from this, is that Evan ascribes to this relativistic vantage, which means that he could easily give himself something of a pass, as long as his memory can expunge the details. So, if he’s able to ditch the memories, ditch the details, then maybe it would excuse away the moral and ethical failing? Something like that.

Evan’s Moral Failings & Their Relation to Joyce

At this point in the movie, we start to learn a lot about Evan. Or, we appear to learn a lot about Evan. So let’s be super clear, we don’t really know what we learn. But here’s what we APPEAR to learn about Evan. The first thing, is that while a professor at Evanston College in Chicago, he might have had an affair with one of his students. And even Ellen says that she saw Evan having sex with a student in his office. But, because they have been talking about this for five years now, Ellen and Evan don’t really discuss this in great detail. So, it could very well have been a setup by the student. We don’t really know.

We also learn that there was some sort of inappropriateness going on between a student of his named Anna from the previous semester. But if you look closely at it, we learn that it was Anna that made a move on Evan. And we do not seem to get any indication that Evan allowed it to continue forward. We get hints that he could have. We know that he’s the sort of bloke that daydreams of women in shops (isn’t that the definition of a man? I take that back… I think I’m about to get pilloried by both men and women alike… I take it back!) – so there’s that. But is it all in his head? Was it just Anna pushing and he denied her advances? We never find out. We do see the two of them making out towards the end of the film… possibly the single most important scene in the movie – but we will discuss this later. Promise. All I am intending here to communicate though, is that we don’t know a lot. We surmise a lot. But we have little facts to go on here.

So, at the end of the day, Evan is a daydreaming letch. Or he is a real letcher, a letch that sleeps with students at every turn. And it was because of this that he lost his position at his previous college, it was because of this that he finds himself in a pinch with Anna. And possibly, it is because of this predisposition that Evan might just have “accidentally” killed Joyce.

The Mouse Traps and Missing Bunnies

And as the evidence mounts that Evan is Joyce’s murderer, we get a completely and utterly useless thread about a lost bunny and some mousetraps. Or do we? The situation is simple enough. Ellen and Evan Birch have mice in their house. And so Evan goes to get a humane trap, which ultimately doesn’t work. Later he gets a few of the regular kind (actually, if you know anything about mousetraps, what he actually purchases are rat traps. Those things are wicked huge.)

But when Evan forgets to close the bunny hutch door all the way, Zelda’s bunny goes missing. The whole family searches. And mid-search, Ellen tells Evan, no more of the absent minded professor… she can’t move again. But Evan has already found the bunny, it was caught in one of his “mousetraps”. So, before going to bed, Evan disposes of the bunny’s body, and then helps Zelda put up Missing Bunny posters the next day. And if it wasn’t obvious enough, what this was really a metaphor for, on the other side of one of the telephone poles they placed a bunny poster, is a Missing Joyce poster that looks nigh-on identical.

And not to put too fine a point on it, but… is this more evidence that Evan has accidentally (or purposefully, who knows?) killed Joyce, hidden the body in the lake, and then gone on with the business of his life? All the while saying he had nothing to do with it, and that he couldn’t even “hurt a fly”?

The Spinning Man and the Final Push

Final push? Haha. Get it? Ok, that was awful. So, as we push through to the end, we learn a number of critical things to the case. That the camp counselor said Evan was 40 minutes late to get his daughter. And when the Malloy impounds his car, they find hair from Joyce in the backseat, as well as Zelda finding her lip balm. Obviously Evan heads to a lawyer, but even he isn’t convinced that Evan didn’t do it.

And there is one scene heading into the ending, that opened my eyes wider than saucers. Ellen, is utterly fixated on the news coverage of Joyce’s killing. (Not the saucer bit, that is to be expected.) But one day, Ellen absentmindedly drives straight down to the beach where Joyce was killed, and is spotted by Detective Malloy. I’ll get to this detail later. But this was a really really huge scene in my opinion.

But the philosophical and the investigation come to a head when Detective Malloy takes on Evan’s challenge for his students to write an essay explaining how we know this chair exists. And Malloy’s solution? “What chair?” And by this he is saying that we can only discuss this chair’s existence because you are aware that it exists. It is in our collective consciousness – we all know it to be true. And therefore, it must exist. It also undermines the credibility of Evan’s overly academic approach. From Malloy’s perspective, the truth is knowable through the inspection of the evidence. Both men work in proofs… but only one will come out of this story unscathed.

The Ending of Spinning Man Explained

As we head through to the ending, I can tell you maybe what happened, but I can’t tell you definitively what happened. We see Ellen and Evan go to a faculty party, and end up having an argument mid-party. Ellen leaves. Evan wanders off the grounds and begins drinking even more. We see different women’s faces overlapping and converging into each other. What does it all mean? We also learn that after leaving the party, he hooks up with Anna in a car. And while making out, Anna tells him that she loves him. With that? Evan snaps, and pushes Anna out of the car, she hits the pavement on the back of her neck, and she flips out and leaves. With that, Evan has his come to Jesus moment. He wonders what he is capable of.

And with that? We transition back to the beginning – the third thread, where Evan walks into Detective Malloy’s office. Why? To confess. He says that he must have forgotten. He must have been confused, but he’s certain he killed her. It was an affair, and it was wrong, and he accidentally shoved her and she hit her head. And with that? She died. One thing lead to another and he decided to dump her body in the lake. Detective Malloy’s response? No. You didn’t do this. There were no signs of a sexual dalliance. There was a nearby cliff, which she fell off of. Her neck and arms were broken from the fall. You didn’t do this. Wait. What? Did I hear you right Malloy? I didn’t do this?

THiNC’s New Diagnosis False Confession Syndrome

Ok, so I made up that syndrome, but it sounds good doesn’t it? “False Confession Syndrome”  But there is a syndrome that induced false confessions entitled, Memory Distrust Syndrome. And it is this Syndrome which is exactly the phenomenon that this movie is exploring. And it is Memory Distrust Syndrome (coined by Gudjonsson and MacKeith back in the 80’s) that brings about three different types of false confessions: Voluntary, Pressured Compliant, and Pressured Internalized. Basically (and I even purchased a scientific paper from a journal to understand this better. The paper’s title was, “Memory distrust syndrome, confabulation and false confession” by Gudjonsson. And it really was the diary of the innocent man that blew my mind. Here’s a fantastic example from the paper, “For two years I have had the belief that I did not know anything about this case but now I am supposed to have been very much involved. What game is God playing with me? Am I mentally ill, or have been? I would admit to that. Many of the things I have done in the recent years was madness.”) the long and short of it is, people develop a distinct and profound lack of trust of their own memories. Which then? Then they are susceptible to consuming other external suggestions telling them a different reality is more real than actual reality.

But what has this got to do with Evan?!? Well. I thought it was clear. Cough. But I’ll connect the dots for you. As the movie starts, Joyce, heads out to the cliff near the lake, falls, and dies. But as Malloy starts to circle in on Evan, Evan begins to envision that he met her, he was having an affair with her… that maybe he really did kill her. When, in fact, he was 40 minutes late picking up Zelda because he just spaced it, and he was nowhere near the lake. Right? Evan has memory distrust syndrome, and as Malloy pushes harder and harder, he internalizes the pressure, and he voluntarily confessed his guilt in this murder.

Spinning Man Movie Solution Theories

But are you buying that solution to this movie’s details? Are you certain this is the way it went down? Why don’t we walk through the predominant theories that could explain this movie best:

Spinning Man Theory 1 – Joyce Died Accidentally

If you bought what the movie was selling, well, then Evan doesn’t know himself. He is not a credible witness. And he has been undermined by Memory Distrust Syndrome. Much of what we see in the movie is false. The affairs with the students. His time at the lake with Joyce. All of it fake. Evan not only was pressured by the Detective about the murder of Joyce, but also by Ellen for his supposed affair with the student at his old college in Chicago.

Spinning Man Theory 2 – Evan Actually Did Do It

Oh this is rubbish! Of course he killed her! Just one more example of the male hegemony over women everywhere!!! We know that Evan has affairs. He is spending time with students that is questionable in the extreme. Obviously Evan killed Joyce. Think about it for a millisecond. We never once see a cliff. We get zero idea that Joyce would randomly head off to said cliff when she has been invited to a party. Not only that, but her diary talks about an older man that she is enamored with. Obviously Evan did it.

Spinning Man Theory 3 – Ross Killed Her

If you are certain that Joyce was killed, but have decided that Evan is about the least reliable narrator the world has ever known… there is another option. And that, my friends, is Ross. Ross? You know Ross. He is the professor that was chatting with Evan about having sex with a student if he knew he could get away with it. He’s also the man that gave Evan rides when his car was impounded. Now, when we see the man heading to meet with Joyce, we see tweed and that’s about it. Which could be Ross. I checked back through the scenes with the two of them in the car, and you can’t tell if he has a Volvo as well. But if you are looking for someone without a moral care in the world to give, Ross is your guy.

Spinning Man Theory 4 – Ellen Killed Her

I’m probably going to make some of you mad with this particular theory, but, ah, well. This little theory right here is why you guys keep coming back to THiNC. headquarters day after day! hahaha.

But think of it this way. Ellen and Evan had to leave Chicago because of an affair that Evan had with a student. Noticing that her husband has become aloof and distant, she begins following him. Seeing Evan give Joyce and friends a ride, and suspecting that Evan is connecting with her, she follows him when he is supposed to be getting Zelda from camp. Evan and Joyce have sex out at the lake, and then Evan leaves. And then she tosses Joyce from the cliff. Eh? Ok, a stretch, but think about this… why was Ellen so incredibly interested in the news? Why did she drive down to the lake that day? It’s not a stupid idea.

Final Thoughts of Spinning Man Movie

If you take the movie at its word – and Evan didn’t actually do it – then you have to buy into the idea of the Memory Distrust Syndrome. You have to believe that Evan was innocent all along but only came to believe he was guilty after piles of haranguing. But if that doesn’t work for you, you have other options here. The facts and details of the movie are extraordinarily fluid. So with that said… what do you think happened? Was it Evan? Was it the cliff? Or maybe you like the Ross angle? Or maybe you are a true rebel, and you see guilt anytime Ellen comes onto the screen. Or heck, maybe you have a theory of your own? I’d like to hear about it in the comments!

Edited by, CY

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59 Responses

  1. Justin

    1)Seems the only affair we can be sure of is the one with Anna, in the car.
    2)We never see Evan interested in having an affair, other than in his mind, until the car scene with Anna.
    3)Seems unlikly that Joyce would carelessly fall from a cliff.
    4)If we accept the findings of Joyce’s autopsy, and the detective’s investigation, then it is unlikely that Evan killed Joyce.

    Conclusion: Evan didn’t kill Joyce. His only affair, which was never consumated, was the result of marital conflict, alcohol, and convenience.

    The rest is left to our imagination, which I prefer, instead of plots that are contrived, with character behavior that is implausable.

    I enjoyed your movie deconstruction, Taylor. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Tristan F.

    After watching this movie in utter confusion, I randomly came across this website and article after a quick Google search. I must say, I thought it was excellent. The plot clarification points helped me quite a bit, and I find your theories very thought-provoking. Thanks for this article! I will certainly be visiting this site again.

    My initial impression was that the death was indeed an accident as the detective (who I took as a “reliable” source of information and appeared to be quite thorough in his pursuit of evidence – unlike Evan) seemed convinced of it. But I really like your “Ellen Killed Her” theory, because it does give some added weight to Ellen’s heavy interest in the case outside of the typical ‘concerned wife’ trope.

    Reply
  3. Taylor Holmes

    If pushed? I’d say Ross did it. But if I had my druthers? I’d say Ellen did it! hahah. But to make that particular leap? We would need at least a little more evidence of her being involved. So for me? I’m making Ross my vote. But that’s just me. Wonder if we could find someone to ask about the Ellen/Ross theories? Hrmmm. (I tweeted out to Simon Kaijser, who knows… I thought it was a pretty good attention grabbing tweet… we shall see!)

    Reply
  4. Leah

    I think Evan killed her. His wife did too – thus her intense interest.
    Not necessarily premeditated murder, but it was a planned rendezvous with a young girl. Like the bunny’s death wasn’t planned…yet the rat trap, the open cage, and coverup were all results of his careless disregard for anyone except himself.

    Clue: she applied the lipgloss at the lake. She didn’t leave it in his car on the rainy night. She left it in his car the day she died.

    His confession was a drunken blur of the two girls and the two confrontations. One girl off a cliff after he drove her to the other side of the lake, the other hit her head.

    Too many characters in denial. Good old boy mentality to one degree or another caused attorney, friend, and sadly the detective to let Evan off the hook. Even his wife simply wanted to put it behind them and move forward once the death was ruled an accident. She didn’t even read the contents of the envelope. She knew the truth but sometimes facing truth is too difficult.

    Evan’s bad memory was an easy one for me. He lied so much he couldn’t keep his stories straight.

    Reply
  5. Dr.deVious

    One thread that receives significant screen play that is perhaps worthy of further examination is the featuring of the match booklet and coin, both totems of the recovering addict shared by both Evan and Malloy, respectively.

    What is the, or their, significance?

    Is it only to provide an explanation for Evan’s disturbed memory…….or perhaps it’s used to suggest that there was more than the obvious affair for the reason they left Chicago…
    …..or is Malloy a recovering addict too and that including the totems facilitates a “compare and contrast” of two recovering addicts…or of course a combination of all three possibilities….

    Reply
  6. Hazar

    Your comments helped me understand the movie better.Thank you very much. The term Memory Distrust Syndrome is very valuable to make sense. I think I do not need to decide who the murderer is except that I do not think it is Evan.

    Reply
  7. chika

    Lovely conclusions, thought provoking. I must confess at the start of the movie ross was my guy. when wifey got too interested i considered the possibility of her cleaning up her husbands mess so they don’t have to move again. Then Evans, but his lack of care in the case have me much doubt in my thoughts. I like the way the movie got me thinking. Many questions still unanswered. I actually thought the detective also being a recovering addict may be covering Evans ass and the fact that there’s no evidence doesn’t rule out the possibility of guilt. Pweh! The thoughts keep coming. A great one. Thanks.

    Reply
  8. Ben

    How I wish we had the answer! I must admit I hadn’t considered Ellen a suspect until reading your fascinating article! I suspected both the professors Ross and Evan. But despite receiving a confession from Evan, Malloy tells him he couldn’t have done it. So now it’s case closed. I agree with you about the daydreaming, prior to Anna, it’s possible Evan had never actually physically cheated and ‘crossed the line’ and it was all just in his mind. He kept mementos such as the Hotel matches and the love letter which his wife finds but won’t read and tears up, but perhaps only kept them to fantasize about the opportunities and ‘what might have been’. His fantasy in the hardware store happened purely from a brief interaction with a shop attendant about a mousetrap! Clearly it doesn’t take him much. The first actual encounter is with Anna and once she is injured and flees, this presents a potential risk for Evan in the aftermath of being publicly exposed. And it wouldn’t be for the first time in his career. Has he just created a motive for murder for himself? Possibly. Perhaps the point to the movie therefore is a critique of the social condition and teachers failing in their responsibility and actions ‘In Loco Parentis’. Evan may be innocent of murder here, but the sad reality is the darker mindsets at play.

    Reply
  9. Joe

    You neglect to mention the pink envelope. He burned it. Whom was it from? Ellen never opened it. It could have been Joyce.

    Reply
  10. Mike

    I think he did it because why would that girl have gone to a cliff in the first place. I think the writer/director gave it away at the end when it shows him pushing the Addison student away out of the car and she almost died from her head hitting the concrete. I think him and the cheerleader wanted at first but then he remembers what he went thru in Chicago and pushed her off and accidentally killed her before any sexual confrontation took place

    Reply
  11. Martin

    He didnt kill her. The last scene with car is a proof. If you rewatch his confession and take his memory problem you will realize that his confession was made up by that event from his past, which he couldnt remember but it was still in his subconsciousness.

    Reply
  12. Diane

    Was Evan’s hand bruised after Anna got up from pavement – if so, was that right before going to the police station to confess? Did he go with Anna after telling his wife he’d always tell the truth? Where was the matchbook from and when? Did I miss them say who or when the letter was from? Thanks for any clarification. Saw the movie on a plane just now.

    Reply
  13. Danna

    My theory: Anna set Evan up. After being mad about her denied advances (or after being hurt by him in the car) she plots her revenge knowing about his terrible memory.

    Reply
  14. Justin

    What if Evan described the crime he commited perfectly, except it was Anna who was the victim. What if Malloy listened to Evan and found Anna’s body exactly as he had described it?

    Reply
  15. Angela

    Fantastic comments. I am still undecided as to whether he did it or not.. he’s memory is horrible and cannot be relied on..

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      yes, I think you are right… he is 100% unreliable. so unreliable he admitted to something he didn’t do. At least, that’s my thought anyway! hahah.

      Reply
  16. Marise

    Read all the reviews. So now that I know a bunny died, I probably won’t watch it. Loved the deconstruction though.

    Reply
  17. Anastasia

    I have a problem with the last scene. Why do they show him so calmly burning the letter? (Leting go of past, ok….) and then looking at the mouse? It is kind of freaky. I think that he didn’t kill her, he is lost and the movie is about proofs and uncertainty but I think that he now realized what he is capable of. That “I love you” from
    Anna was that tipping point where he snapped. Who knows what else could trigger him? Is it all about the sex with young woman but he feels guilty when thinking about love? At the end I believe that we all just want to know is he a good guy or bad and I think he is bad (it’s not important if the students hit on him and not vice versa but the ideas and toughts thar he has are bad enough. He is married and a professor.)

    Reply
  18. nije važno

    I thnik he had something with her in wood and she said I love you, he snapped and she run away and fell.

    Reply
  19. dave purchase

    wow. what a great film until that ending .wtf. I would have left it at that until I found this site and realised that it was a very clever ending . I had a theory about half way through and after having read others comments I believe it could be possible ,my theory goes as follows : Ellen did it and here are my observations . Evan has memory problems that can be easily manipulated by someone who knows him well and several times he states that truth is only how you interperet it so with his bad memory he has to fill in the gaps with what others are saying and evidence that he is told about . half way through the film Ellen tells someone that she used to be a teacher but she could never go back to that again , why ? , did she have the affair and convince Evan that it was him ? why did Ellen wear a dead girls lipstick and why did he have no guilty reaction to it ? when the detctive is leaving her house he says you have a nice home to which she replies I have worked very hard to keep this , how hard ? Ellen had access to the car and the house to plant evidence and also who really left the rabbit cage open . she also handed Evan the sealed letter which she said she found in his belongings but he shows no shock on seeing it , another plant ? Evan is a fantasist and probably did park by the lake and watch the girl but if Ellen followed him and saw this theres a sort of motive . finaly she pulls up at the crime scene and looks very guilty . well thats my take and I am probably way off but what a great movie to get you really thinking and as was said earlier make you the detective .

    Reply
  20. Mike Moore

    Most definitely Ellen. Here is the theory in order:
    (1) Evan has a real condition. We see that when he picks up the mouse traps. He is prone to such thoughts.
    (2) Evan has memory loss and gets lost in time. As his wife, Ellen knows that. And uses that fact.
    (3) The evidence clears Evan of murder. That is fact. So what of Evan’s admission?
    (4) He reconstructs reality based on what others share. He is led to believe others and take their word for it. He allows the pushes narrative about murdering Joyce.
    (5) And allows Ellen to convince him that it was he who had an affair. Bombshell – it was Ellen who has the affair. Proof?
    (6) The comment Ellen made to a neighbor about leaving teaching. She left, he didn’t. Notice how nervous she is? How does she try very hard to keep the house going?
    (7) When Evan and the children were cleaning the car – Ellen went for the mail. No accident. Clearly she in anxious about what might be found.
    (8) “What did I come in here for?” Evan asked towards the beginning of the movie. He had specific items in his hand. Not that pink envelope. The director wanted to show it wasn’t there. Ellen planted it. And then tore it up.
    (9) The book of matches – he gets drunk and forgets more. When he picked up the matches at the bar, he connects it to the book of matches he had in the glove compartment. Ellen used that to maintain her narrative.
    (10) Bombshell – that last scene with Anna wasn’t real everyone. It was his reconstructed version based on looking at the planted letter Ellen gave him. He again decided he was guilty based on Ellen.
    (11) The mouse scene at the end? Demonstrating the last note above – she has Evan running in circles, chasing his own tail.
    (12) Nail in the coffin – the movie art pulls it all together. You think Evan is a suspect because of his totem. Malloy is a suspect because of totem. In the movie poster, they both face straight. Ellen is pictured from her profile. She is not straight. She has her “mug shot” of criminality. The person who seems to be the innocent one, the one who plays the victim, the one who has no addiction – SHE IS THE GUILTY ONE.

    Reply
  21. Mike Moore

    (13) The movie title itself – Spinning Man. She was spinning the man the entire time.
    (14) Bombshell – their daughter wasn’t Evan’s rather the product of one of Ellen’s affairs. That scene when the daughter claimed he wasn’t her father suggested this to be true.
    (15) Support? The girl’s name was Zelda. Look it up. The fictitious name of Zelda, Princess Zelda, was taken from Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of Scott, an early American author … both known for infidelity.

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  22. Mikey

    it may be a bit post-modern, but I find this film a fascinating companion to Pearce’s earlier film, Memento. Both films are about a man with memory problems, and both explore the notion of truth if our memory is not reliable. Perhaps an in-joke or misdirection by the director.

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  23. Adriana

    This movie threw me through a loop. I definitely thought that Anna had something to do with it but also the theory is slightly clichè ‘girl becomes obsessed with attractive man and kills her competition.’

    However this article and comments really got me focused on Ellen. Could Evan have gotten into a heated argument with Ellen in Chicago, she pushes him and he hits his head causing his memory problems. Then with the pressure of the investigation and finger pointing he has warped that memory into a memory of hurting Anna? Might be a reach but Ellen does seem erratic and hot tempered considering how she reacted in front of everyone at the party where she very publicly aired out their dirty laundry for all to see or possibly to put more doubt in his innocence?

    Also what was the significance of Ellen getting her hand caught in the trap? And her reply “it’s only fingers” ?

    There is a comment above about the letter and that it was planted and how he showed no shock when he saw it. Wouldn’t he have shown some sort of shock or confusion if it was planted? Wouldn’t he want to read it if he had no idea what it was or where it came from? To me it seems like he knew exactly what the letter was.

    I really didn’t understand why his daughter said that he wasn’t her father in the one scene. At first I had a theory that maybe his memory problems was actually something genetic and hereditary and his daughter is starting to show signs of it? However I also thought that an above theory that she is a product of an affair that Ellen had was really interesting and could also have been the meaning behind that scene.

    In the end we see the detective looking at a picture of his daughter in his office and then brings it to joyces memorial while holding his coin. I’m also not sure what the meaning of that is? Is his daughter also dead?

    Also how after pursuing Evan for so long is he so quick to dismiss his confession? He does say that there is not enough evidence to prove that he interacted with her but there isn’t that much evidence to prove that she tripped and fell. She very well could have been pushed. This also ties into my earlier question about the significance of Ellen’s comment “it’s only fingers” is she saying that it’s not as bad and having broken wrists or arms like Joyce had suffered from her alleged fall off of a cliff? Why would Joyce even be at a cliff by herself?

    And lastly in multiple scenes she says “where were you? I was calling you” yet we never hear or see his phone ring?

    I love movies that make you think but I just wish I could get some definitive answers!

    Thank you for your article and all the theories that were commented! Even though I am still feeling unsettled by the ending of the movie it was great to read everyone’s interpretation.

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  24. Jon

    To me the film is allegory pitting postmodern epistomology against classical objectivism. Evan represents the glib, new styled philosophy that absurdly states absolutely that there are no absolutes, only that which you interpret or believe. His (self contradictory) philosophy ultimately detaches him from objective reality. Malloy is the better philosopher who is grounded in foundational truth, that is, what is self evident both empirically and metaphysically, I.e. justice, morality, etc. For him concrete non subjective evidence is where infinitely regressive proofs stop. The film’s “truths” are purposely hard to catch because it asks us to decide which philosophy is superior. If we choose the more rational, then we must accept Malloy’s evidentiary truth and dismiss Evan’s mixture of fantasies and real memories as an unreliable path to describe realty. If we choose Evan’s so called reality, a fluid mess of schitzophrenic impressions, then we’re left with confusion, the postmodern dilemma of existential angst and ambiguity as well as an untethering from the cultural unification of shared values and the solemn search for objective truth. Perhaps Evan decides to reform when he tells Ellen he’ll never lie again. Hopefully he wakens to start over, beginning with the the common truths we all accept as self evident.

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  25. Steve Maurice

    I think we – as the audience – would like our murder mysteries to have a clear solution, but I don’t believe that this is what the movie-makers intended here. The point of this story is pretty clearly that the truth is difficult, if not impossible, to know. At the end Evan confesses because that is his truth, but Malloy says Evan didn’t do it because there is no evidence that he did. That is Malloy’s truth. It doesn’t matter because the point of the film is that objective proof is impossible to know, and from our limited points of view as humans, we will never be privy to objective truth. It has been, and always will be, the evidence of our senses versus – or sometimes in cooperation with – our brains’ interpretation of what we sense.

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  26. Jon

    To say that here is no objective truth is in itself a declaration of objective truth. You can’t get out of the contradiction. One can only honestly say there is an objective truth and either I know it or I don’t know it. And if you say you know it, you have to show how you have access to absolute knowledge, otherwise it’s just your extremely limited opinion. And with everyone running around with their own uneducated, uninformed, puffed up, futile, speculation about reality, we get postmodern, nihilistic malaise. As Fox Mulder always says, “The Truth is out there. “ Not your truth or my truth. For a better world we must sincerely seek it.

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  27. eric

    I think Ellen did it. Or else it is a terrible movie.
    The line that goes something like “We can’t go back” like she has crossed a line.
    The girl fell without evidence of sex so maybe Ellen thought he was cheating and followed the girl and pushed her off the cliff.
    Why would she not want to open the letter unless it didn’t matter to her.
    When she says “We can’t move again.”
    The fact that he traps the bunny and then let’s it go (yes I know it was accident the bunny got caught in the mouse trap). kind of like the girl died for the wrong reason or wrong person killed her.
    And how he said “I was never worried about what the detective thought” but felt guilty enough to confess, like he was confessing because his cheating caused his wife to kill someone.
    Plus the wife felt compelled to go back the beach and acted strange about the lipstick.

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  28. Greg

    I think Evan had an affair with Joyce .He restrained her and she panick and ran and fell off the cliff . The detective did not arrest Evans because she was of age to have an affair with Evan and she ran away and fell off the cliff . There’s no evidence to say he chased her or push her

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  29. fgaine

    Why on earth does Evan goes nuts each time a girl says I love you to him? That’s one of the more puzzling bits of the film for me…

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  30. eric beck

    “I love you” is the first sign the girl (in this example) involved wants more than just sex. What follows is making the affair “public” in some way like telling the wife or lashing out by getting them fired when the boy rejects them, which in this case is what lead to Evans losing his job.

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  31. Adam

    After reading a number of different opinions and interpretations of the “truth” behind the girls murder I think I finally understand the movie!

    Evan – Bases the foundation of his perception and interpretation of the “truth” on his memory of what happened which clearly becomes diluted after his memory is questioned (essentially memory distrust syndrome). Once you realize this, no account given by Evan himself can be considered accurate nor inaccurate. This eliminates him as a suspect (all ravens are black because I have only seen black ravens) because he can not truly prove or disprove his own participation in the teens death.

    Malloy – Bases his interpretation and perception on physical evidence and proof, or through a process of elimination when given conflicting evidence. This is unbiased and truly scientific, detective Malloy says at the end of the movie that he is not capable of proving Evan guilty despite his best efforts. Although they have reached different views on philosophy, detective Malloy clearly uses the scientific method to obtain “proof” before forming a conclusion. He hypothesizes and then begins trying to disprove his hypothesis which he felt he was ultimately successful in doing and chose to pursue no further. This does not absolve Evan of guilt for the murder any more than Evan’s personal belief that he was not guilty for the murder (there is no such thing as a white raven because I have only ever seen black ravens).

    Ultimately you form your belief based on your personal approach to ascertaining “truth” and “proof”. The philosophical viewer will likely believe Evan is guilty because of the method Evan used to reach his conclusion. The scientific viewer will likely believe in the ultimate “proof” that was given by systematic elimination and adherence to the scientific method of reaching a conclusion. Evan was simply not capable of committing a murder if the victim was indeed not a victim OF murder.

    However, for us true psychopaths out there… we realize that neither Evan’s conclusion of his guilt through memory or detective Malloy’s conclusion of Evan’s innocence through scientific method can ascertain the true circumstances regarding the teens untimely death. We instead notice the subtlety of Evan’s wife conversing with detective Malloy, stating she works “hard to keep it that way” when told she has a beautiful home. That her and her husband both had their own unique reasons for leaving Chicago and the detective shouldn’t assume for a moment that he truly knows what those reasons were. Maybe the outburst at the faculty party was guilt weighing on a heavy conscience.

    Memories, Facts, and Feelings from different angles show that depending on your approach offer an answer that draws no true conclusion. The film is a paradox, and a very well written one.

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  32. intosh

    This article is more unnecessarily convoluted than the movie. And those side comments and “jokes” are annoyingly lame.

    This movie lends itself for many interpretations because it has tons of plot holes — not because of a particularly clever plot.

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  33. K

    Thought your movie review was thoughtful insightful and intelligent. Thank you for writing it.

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  34. Adam

    There are a lot of things that are left to the imagination but only one moment that makes me certain that your Ross theory is correct. The scene where Evan takes the articles from the printer has a moment where Ross is standing behind him looking extremely sinister – there is something that made me think it was him at that point and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise thereafter. We also know that Ross is clearly leaning towards abusing his position when he is watching the woman and commenting earlier in the film. What a great film.

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  35. Cor

    I think Evan did it. He is the Spinning Man and he spun this story from start to finish. He was holding her wrist behind the tree, she whispered, I love you and he snapped (her wrists). Just as he snapped when Anna said it. He bought huge traps for a mouse, large enough to kill a bunny and he left the window open and the cage open and acted completely unaware – fatal attraction anyone – a dead bunny is basically a sign of a sociopath and a ohyschopath. I believe he is guilty, seeing how in two instances he snapped at the words I love you. But constructed this confession from the second Malloy said – what chair??? He gave away how his mind works and Evan was able to play the situation from there. Even ANna said – it was all my fault in his office, it takes two to play the game but he knew how to get her to believe it was all her fault. He played Ellen asking her why she was throwing fantasy conjecture – when she has always been so logical, telling her how she wanted to see herself and stopping her accusations. Also, I believe if Ellen had anything to do with it, the director would have shown an Erie final close up of her .

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  36. Sherlock

    It is very obvious Evan is the perp. not only for the reasons given by the commenters above who came to the same conclusion. There are several clues that are equally damning for him.
    1. The lip gloss and the hair strands found in his car. We know she was there.
    2. The opposition to searching of his car. Evan thought he literally washed away any traces of dirt/ gravel from the lake. He wanted to make sure his car was “clean” before they took it away.
    3. He was a habitual liar with psychopathic traits. A cheat is a liar and liar is a cheat. Spin it how you may, he lied about ever knowing Joyce, her ever being in his car, lied about the events of the 28 of the said month and why he was late, keeping the latter in his drawer and the list goes on. After inadvertently causing the death of the bunny he quickly and quietly went back to bed. even went to extent of putting up flyers of missing bunny.
    4. His “Prove this chair exists” problem defeated by the detective. A Philosophy prof. He is big on words and theories or so he thought. Truth as a category do exist. It is not merely a perception of one’s interpretation of his/her mind and memory that makes something true. but the real test for truth is does it gel propositionally with the reality of nature as it is. The detective correctly said in laymans terms “what chair?” in other words the “burden of proof” is squarely right back on the person asking the question.
    5. The “unreliable witness” theory/ alibi. By this point the movie has already established the kind of character Evan is. The spacey, scattered brain, selective memory defense is just to throw the cops off his tail. As you can see at the end of the movie his confession was his last hail mary effort in claiming 2nd degree murder.
    6. His “Boston Strangler” act was triggered by his victims saying “I love you”
    Evan is type of guy that just as the detective put it “likes having sex with college/ high school” girls with no strings attached. I’d say that’s about 85 % of young and middle aged men today. He already proposed in his mind his rationale for engaging in such activities in a book he authored. We see the difference between the character of Evan and his other teacher friend. His friend openly entertained the idea but refused to act on it while Evan pretended to not entertain such ideas but yet rendezvoused/cheated with the students.
    7. What really happened: It was spot on as He/ Evan described his confession. They met up that day in his car. He took her around the area of the lake where they made out. She whispers or mentions at some point the words “I love you” which struck a nerve with him probably from his previous encounter at his last school. He obviously don’t want any kind of emotional, strings, connection that would lead to being caught so he panicked and pushed her off. She ran off, hit her head and fell down the cliff. He drove back to pick his daughter up thinking to himself “there is no physical evidence” tying him to her death hence he didn’t even know the girl let alone kill her. The burden of proof was now on the law enforcement and since they can’t convict on just suspicion, like they say “If the glove don’t fit,you must acquit” they had no choice than to let him go. Even in the midst of all thats happening he still met up with Anna. He definitely got issues. There are more clues but I’m just too tired to keep typing. He’s 100% your guy tho.

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  37. DEBBIE

    Thanks for the interpretation. This movie had me scratching my head . I like the idea about his wife doing it, she was definitely paranoid and talked about trying to keep the family together. I also wondered if Anna did it. She seemed very fixated on him and could have felt competition from the other girl.

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  38. Julie

    My theory is Joyce committed suicide. Here is my support in as best chronological order as I remember:
    1. Joyce is seen happily waving at the man who gets out of the car in the beginning of the movie.
    2. Until his confession at the end, Evan denies all along that he ever met her, but does admit it’s possible he gave her and some other kids a ride home one rainy day.
    3. Malloy alludes to an entry in Joyce’s diary. An entry about her infatuation with an older man. I do believe this to be Evan, but again Evan is not aware of her.
    4. One of the final scenes that comes not from Evan’s, Ellen’s, Malloy’s, or any one else’s point of view, but instead comes from OUR pov as unassuming viewer. The scene where Evan gets out of his car, walks across the parking lot to throw his notes away. This is where Joyce’s face lights up and she is happy and waving at Evan. BUT her smile soon fades as she slowly stops waving. Pan back to Evan turning away from the garbage can and heading back to his car. He does not acknowledge Joyce in the least. He does not know her.
    5. Joyce, a 15-year old girl, has just been rebuffed by her crush. By someone she might even believes she loves & possibly fantasizes he loves her. For him to just blow her off because he didn’t know her would be devastating to her young, fragile ego. She would be heart broke.
    6. Out of anger and hurt, Joyce runs through the woods, comes to the cliffs, takes one look back, and in the heat of the moment she throws herself off the cliff.
    7. As for Evan, I do believe he’s the “absent minded professor” known for losing track of time & not paying attention to what’s going on around him. Let’s break this down a little:
    — he started fantasizing about hardware girl in the aisle, then comes to at the register.
    — outside it’s raining, he’s tempted again. The very next scene, he’s home & everything is dry. How long was he really gone? What was he doing?
    — twice his wife tried to reach him (the first time the police came, then when she got her fingers smashed. Then his lawyer can’t reach him. Where is he during these times? Why can’t he be reached? Apparently the behavior is normal because absolutely no one presses him for an explanation.
    So, girl can’t have boy, girl throws herself off a cliff. Philosophy professor is a bit ditzy. The others are in place to make obvious Evan’s disturbed ways.

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  39. Aristotle

    Ellen has been “calling him” and he’s never answered. When he was drunk in the bar, he asks the bartender where he could use a phone. Does he actually have a mobile phone?

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  40. Uptoolate

    Totally annoyed with ending but enjoyed movie mainly because Guy Pierce is exceptional actor. Lots of red herrings, lots of memory / fantasty/ did it really happen or did he just imagine it threads. A well thought out thriller with many twists to keep you guessing. Evan is so douchy and the scenes with his kids creeped me right out. Made me even less trusting of people thanks Guy! I feel like the cop was giving Evan a false sense of relief to make him think he was off the hook, but had been recording him the whole time. Then it shows the student being pushed out of car onto the ground by him and I was waiting for her to turn up dead or missing too.. if the movie had continued.

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  41. I

    I will try to give the short version of my thoughts about the movie. It is not cut and dry! What Taylor said about False Confession, I believe had its place in the movie. I will also add this part about the coin that Malloy had. He said that alcoholics are given a coin to remind them that they are alcoholics and I believe that he and Evan may have been recovering alcoholics which is why Evan held on to the matches because he was aware of this practice. The matches reminded him that he was a pervert so instead of having actual affairs he would have them in his head….Malloy mentioned that around the time that Evan and his wife left the Chicago area that Joyce was 13 yrs old. Could it be that this sicko had sex with this child and the guilt of it all, when he became conscious, caused him to hate himself so much that he created a truth in his head that he could live with saying “that nothing happened” when the wife said that she saw him having sex with someone? Could it be that her perfect family was destroyed by his perversion (that she knew about) however did not want to expose because it would destroy all that they/she had created in her head about her perfect family? The writer wanted us to draw all of the conclusions that we are drawing from the movie so that we can become AWARE of how many different opinions and perceptions exist in this world and that all of them are useful in some kind of way. #wearegreaterthanwearethinking

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  42. Al

    Last scene of the mice on the spinning wheel made me think that mouse was caught with more humane trap instead of the one that would kill it. Evan is spinning mouse left to survive and continue with his dark side, over and over again while killing traps only hurt his loved ones (wife).

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  43. Shawn

    Ellen killed her, simple as that. I think she knew of the ride she was given that fateful day, in the rain, saw her as another potential affair threat and disposed of her. Anna was the result of the court of opinion. Evan mentioned that her parents threatened to sue, the allegation was the only evidence, and a professor’s reputation was destroyed. This was more than enough for Ellen to lose it. Her whole world was upended and they were forced to move across the country. She made mention that they had no choice to move, she wouldn’t (couldn’t) move again, and went so far as to lose all trust in her husband based solely on mere allegation. Evan was found guilty, based on the court of public opinion, including his wife. She resented him, but, as she refused to make good on her once successful career (out of fear I surmise), she needed her husband and his tainted, yet quasi successful career to maintain their cozy little world. Another scandal spelled eminent doom to that cocoon of complacency. She believed the allegations more than her husband, the stigma still looms just as paramount 5 years hence as though it happened yesterday, and she has, through a constant state of resentment for Evan, been gas lighting him the entire time since Evanston. He has no clue whether he did any of the things he’s accused, but his perpetual state of guilt, perceived or enacted, has scrambled his mind and he tries desparately to quantify it all by what he has left. His work as a language philosopher. I believe Ellen wanted him found guilty, but when that fell through, she just bit the bullet and maintained the ruse of their marriage. Joyce had to go one way or the other. Ellen successfully made it look like an accident, but her overall scheme fell short and she detested Evan even more for it.

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  44. Beth

    I thought the wife did it at about the halfway point. She did it to protect her family. What was the significance of the matchbook?

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  45. Tom

    What is the meaning of the coin in the detective’s hand when he examines the body in the morgue and why is he still holding it when he is visiting Joyce’s house in the end ?

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  46. Max Downham

    The way this thing was written and directed, it was pretty certain the butler must have dunnit–or the janitor. They might have written one of them into the script, though, just as a gesture. I wasted nearly two hours of my life watching this crap. How do these people get away with it? Don’t Brosnan and Pierce care anymore about their reputations?

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  47. Atalanta

    I saw the movie and what I think is that it is evolving as a killer. It’s not one yet, but it almost killed Anna. I think this because there are scenes we see the two girls saying “I LOVE YOU” and this looks like a trigger in which he loses control and becomes someone violent. With Anna it becomes clearer. it is as if he changed personality and begins to assault her. Soon after, we see his scene trying to apologize to her and as Anna runs away. Then we see Evan start pounding the garbage as if he was aware that he had lost control. I think he did not kill Joice, voluntarily, but he chased her until she fell off the cliff. Another point that you did not exaggerate was the box of matches that he spins in the hands of the detective (which was alcoholic), indicating that that box is like a control mechanism. We then see the detective delivering the box to him and saying that unlike the teacher, when he finds a proof he can hide it better than Evan.

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  48. Michael

    Look up Gaslighting https://www.google.com/search?client=ubuntu&channel=fs&q=gaslighting+meaning&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8. I think Ellen was Gaslighting Evan. Gaslighters are manipulative and cunning. The reason for them leaving Chicago, was a manipulation by Ellen, possibly to hide HER affair which resulted in her daughter who denied Evan as her father. Ellan insisted on keeping blaming Evan leaving Chicago . Evan began to doubt his own memory and reality, which occurs most often in cases of gaslight victims. Ellen admitted to the detective that she “works at” keeping her home together (including manipulatiforon). Ellen, after getting her hand caught in the RAT trap (an alegory?), said she had been calling him for hours, a lie to keep him defensive (why was she still sitting helplessly at the sink with her hand under the water, for hours), rather than going to the hospital. At every opportunity Ellen was accusatory everything Elan. Ellen’s comments about why she left teaching was also a dead gaslight giveaway: “they are all a bunch of backstabbing … “, as in, its always everyone else’s fault.

    After watching a couple times, I am left with the impression, with skimpy evidence, that Ellen was portrayed as all too innocent, but was too obsessed with finding “evidence” to perpetuate and deepen Evan’s feelings of guilt, thereby strengthening her gaslight hold on Evan. The detective seemed to realize something about her when he showed up at her house, got her to open up, and when he promised her “nothing will leave this house”. At which time she asked him to leave. If she had nothing to hide, and wanted him to find the truth, that’s the last thing she would want, especially if she wanted to know about Evan. She went into hiding at that point, No one asked of her whereabouts and why she couldn’t have picked up her daughter at Camp. I’m left with the impression that Evan was a victim, and Ellan was the real villan in the story. But someone else actually killed the cheerleader.

    In the end, movies and opinions about movies are our own projections of our hidden conscience and unconscious workings onto someone elses script . Spinning Man was an excellent mind-bending who done it.

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  49. Vanessa

    I think the two strongest theories are that it was Ellen or Evan. However, I believe the strongest contender is Evan. This conclusion is made by the following pieces of evidence provided in the film, read in conjunction with the films underlying Philosophy motif:

    1. In the beginning we are shown a shot of Joyce looking at someone in a Volvo car, who steps out. This number plate is the same one on Evans car- shown in the scene where he is washing his car.

    2. WASHING CAR:
    Evan is washing his car, why so soon after girls disappearance…?! Also his daughter remarks on how dirty the car is… in other words we know that Evan doesn’t regularly wash his car if he’s left it so dirty. This is out of the ordinary for him to take such care of his car.

    PINK LETTER
    When Evan takes a pile of papers out of the front seat of his car into the house ( when washing car), there is a pink letter in the pile. The same letter that Ellen produces to Evan towards end of movie and rips up.
    Alternatively it could be argued Ellen planted the pink letter in car as Evan doesn’t pay much attention to it. Nor seems to worry that Ellen may discover it.

    However, why does Evan bring the papers inside? He also says he can’t remember what he came into the house for to Ellen. Then “ feigns” ( I believe he deliberately pretends to be forgetful) that he was after soap. Perhaps he hides the letter later, we never find out exactly where Ellen discovers the pink letter. It also seems significant that Evan later burn the pink letter after Ellen rips it up.

    3. POLICE EVIDENCE:
    A) It is reported to police that a man in a grey Volvo was seen looking at Joyce on day she disappeared. We know this was Evans car *see above.

    B) Joyce’s diary said she was infatuated with an older man.

    C) TIME
    Evan lies to the Detective ( not a crime of tardiness but an obstruction to justice) about the time he picked up his daughter from the camp. He was 40 minutes late. Alternatively it may be that yes Evan is guilty of obstructing evidence but not actually guilty of the crime. It is likely he didn’t want the Police unnecessarily involving him further in their investigations, due to fear of tongues wagging. His career and reputation being at stake. Then again 40 minutes plus whatever time occurred before the pick up time of his daughter would give Evan the time to commit the murder.

    D) Police know that Evan was previously involved in scandalous affair with his student at past university. He has a history of liking young girls. This is also crystallised by his day dream of kissing girl in hardware store and the fact that he has a history with student Anna.

    B) NOTES:
    The Detective also finds Evans notes in a bin near the lake where Joyce worked. Again one could argue that this was coincidence re the notes, it may be true that he does like to visit the lake and threw some notes away there. Or was this planted by Ellen? But why would she set him up if arguably she killed the girl to stop Evans affair and maintain the status quo of a nice family home/life. I think it’s likely that this means that Evan did spend time in that area. When the notes were thrown away we won’t know? But he’s certainly been there recently.

    4.LAWYER:
    When Evan and Ellen meet up with the lawyer Evan asks him if he thinks he’s capable of dealing with this case as his area of expertise is family law. The Lawyer responds that they don’t yet know the outcome of what area the case falls into law wise as they have no body, motive or evidence of foul play has been found yet. It seems this is a giveaway that Evan already knows that a murder has been committed, he knows he needs a defence lawyer whose expertise is homicide.

    5. NEWS IN CAR:
    Evan turns news off in car about Joyce with Ellen. But in his office he is shown looking up the information in his laptop. Alternatively Ellen turns the radio back on to listen to news once Evan leaves car. She seems desperate to hear and also drives to the crime scene on the beach. The Detective sees her and she looks very guilty. Also Ellen’s response to seeing the missing poster on a tree earlier with her friend is quite alarming. Her jaw drops when she sees it, she’s deeply affected. Also her dialogue about why they left and she stopped teaching is ambiguous. It might not be all about Evan that they left. Her friend also says “I tell everyone that you’re the smartest woman I know”. Ellen is super intelligent, smart enough to set the murder up and get away with it… well possibly.

    6. SECRETARY: Evans secretary says two things that seems to gives him away. First when the Detective asks her what she thinks of the “Good Doctor” (Evan) she responds “they’re all nuts here”. Again when Evan prints out information on the missing girl the secretary says “My Cousin is a cop. He said they know who did it…”. Evan responds “Well I hope they catch him” ( how does he know it’s a him). The secretary in a menacingly tone responds “Oh they will they’re watching him 24/7”. This leads us to think that either she knows it’s Evan they are watching and she’s telling him she’s on to him. Or it tells us that the Police think Evan is the killer as we know they are watching him 24/7. Evan looks taken aback “caught out in this scene too.

    7.Evan is shown exercising on stairs near cheerleaders ( present day). This shows that he would have seen Joyce before when she was undertaking cheerleading practice.

    8. FLASHBACK SCENES: We know Joyce got into his car. We see that their first encounter happened when she sat in the back, after he gave her and some other students a lift when raining. The police also finds strands of her hair in the car.

    The scene with Joyce is truthful. He met her that day.

    9. LIPGLOSS:
    Zelda finds Joyce’s lipgloss in the back of her Dad’s car when they washed it. We know that Joyce had that lipgloss with her on day she disappeared as she’s seen putting it on in Kayak letting van. She didn’t leave it their the first time she got into his car. Evan also knows what the flavour of the lipgloss is peaches when Ellen tests him by putting it on and kissing him. The lipgloss is indeed called this, he seems to have tasted it before and is familiar with it. He seems turned on by tasting it and savouring it. Licking his lips.

    10. Evan is cagey about visiting the beach. He is annoyed at Ellen about springing on him a trip there in front of kids as he can’t say no. Does Ellen do this because she suspects him? At the beach Ellen says we should take a trip back to Spain. Evan says actually we should move there and but that cafe you could run it and the kids could be bilingual. And with immediacy and seriousness Ellen responds “Okay”!. This could mean that Ellen wants to leave as she believes her husband did it. Or she could also be guilty of the crime and it would be an escape. Evan quashes this dream with a laugh. Ellen also reminds him that he promised he would always tell her the truth… he undermines this saying it was before he went to school and understood that he could never really tell her the truth. Why because he could only tell the truth as he interprets and remembers it? This is a calculated response.

    11. MARVINs disappearance:
    When the rabbit goes missing Ellen tell him not to do the “whole absent minded professor thing”… saying it was “cute initially” but not now. Evan finds the rabbit caught in the mouse trap. He gets rid of the evidence and pretends to his wife and Zelda that he wants to search for the “missing rabbit”. Posting missing posters of the rabbit up near to almost identical posters of missing girl. This shows that Evan is good at being duplicitous and acting like the innocent caring guy. It also suggests that like the rabbit he also knows where the dead girl is too.

    12. Wittgenstein & Chair Theory:
    Anna describes the duplicity of Wittgenstein’s inability to be truthful about his affairs with men at night in relation to his philosophy on morality and truth. Is this not Evan too? It says that one can say something preach about it yet also compartmentalise and behave contradictorily in their spare time.

    When the Detective and Evan discuss the homework paper on “prove this chair exists”. Two things are happening. One the Detective clearly dispels the philosophical dilemma by pointing out that collective conscious in the question “What chair” proves it’s objective existence. On the other hand it suggests that the answer to truth occurs in what people don’t say or deny. He knows Evans committed the crime through his pretend denial of Joyces existence. In other words “What Joyce”?

    13. ANNA
    Pivotal is the the scene towards the end with Evan kissing Anna in his car and throwing her out ( she hits her head) when she says “I love you”. I think this event took place on the night before Evan confesses to the Detective. That’s how he injured his hand, by banging it on the rubbish bin after Anna flees the scene. We know he’s violent and also capable of affairs with young women. “I love you” also seems to trigger something. Is this what Joyce also whispered in his ear on that fateful day? Was this how her wrists were broken as he held them above her head? Perhaps he didn’t actually push her, she fell in fear fleeing from his angry outburst. But he definitely had an affair with her and was with her that day. His confession is perhaps fear that he will cause another death accidentally through his addiction to sexual relationships with young girls.

    Or his confession ( the way it’s worded) is because he fears Anna will say something to the police. So he creates a confession that suggests an unstable/insane mind ( he has memory loss). He may have murdered her but can’t remember how. He will get manslaughter or be sent to an asylum instead of prison.

    14. The detective knows Evans most likely caused the girls deaths ( his outburst leading her to run from him and accidentally fall to her death off cliff). He knows he was involved with her but there’s no conclusive evidence. The autopsy report simply reveals an accidental fall. The detective doesn’t have the evidence to pin murder on Evan. The way he talks to Evan strongly suggests he’s on to him, but that he must let him go. The picture in the drawer in not of the detectives daughter but of Joyce. It was given to him by the parents in beginning. He return this when breaking news to parents that it was accidental.

    I think Evan is extremely clever and he feigns being forgetful. He drops this evidence everywhere. In the classroom, with his wife, with Anna, and the Detective. But this man remembers everything, and he is a master of philosophy and primarily linguistics after all. He is spinning them all into his web of lies and deceit. The ultimate master of manipulation is painted in this film.

    Reply
  50. Andreas Chronis

    Evan is a spinning professor surrounded by philosophic thoughts.
    Evan creates affairs with his students (see Joyce, Anna, Carol). This is causing him the intentional memory loss mixed by philosophic theory. His wife tells that Evan is not telling the truth but he creates the truth.

    What happened to Joyce is similar to the last scene with Anna. Evan might be violent, Joyce might run away and she fell. Evan would try to save her.

    Malloy is in the same racket with Evan playing the same game of evidence.
    At this time Malloy finds Evan innocent due to the facts.

    I think Evan is a spinning man prone to incuring problems but he is innocent in this occasion.

    Reply
  51. Paul

    So many things to read that I got lazy and did not finish all of the comments. So if this was already mentioned, I apologize. This is way out there but remember how the detective answered the riddle on the white board that asked us to prove the existence of the chair. He said “what chair” which in turn spins the question back to the person who posed the question to actually answer it. If the response is “that chair right here”. Then it exists. Or you both agree that “what chair” is the correct answer then it does not exist. Soooooooooo…. if you ask who dunnit? My response is. “Done what?” Was there even a murder?

    Reply
  52. c.o'keefe

    Just watched this movie on Hulu for the first time (implies I will be watching it again). I am still absorbing it…..

    Can’t understand why this got such low reviews at RT, Metacritic, etc., but they often do that to good movies.

    Reply
  53. Mike C

    The film title is Spinning Man. And we are intentionally led to uncertainty: to be spinning. This either makes this a great story or a terrible one… but I like the actors and they’re smart in their movie choices.

    Reply

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