In 1873 on Smutty Nose Island, a bleak island off the coast of New England, Louis Wagner is tried and hanged for the murder of two women. At the trial, the survivor of the murders, Norwegian immigrant Maren Hontvedt, recounts the events that led up to the murder of her sister and sister-in-law. In so doing, she reveals how she was caught in a loveless marriage and her repressed passion for her brother. Meanwhile, in the present-day, newspaper photographer Jean travels to the island off the New Hampshire coast with her husband Thomas, an award-winning poet, his brother Rich, and Rich’s girlfriend Adaline. She is researching the murders of the two immigrant women. In a twist of fate, she discovers archived papers that appear to give an account of the murders. According to the papers, Norwegian immigrant Maren Hontvedt, survived the attack, which was allegedly done by Louis Wagner, who had once tried to seduce her. The plot unfolds the narrative of the papers and Hontvedt’s testimony against Wagner that gets him hanged, even though she was the murderer, as Jean surmises. Jean privately struggles with jealousy as Adaline openly flirts with Thomas, who openly appreciates Adaline’s topless beauty, along with her interest in his work.
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writers: Anita Shreve, Alice Arlen, Christopher Kyle
Stars: Catherine McCormack, Sean Penn, Sarah Polley