It behooves me why people who have seen Return to Sender keep comparing it with Gone Girl. Return to Sender isn’t so good but neither is Gone Girl IF you have read the novel. I devoured the novel but kept dozing off while watching the film.
So, okay, the two films have other things in common — Rosamund Pike in the lead, and the main character is mentally ill and capable of murder. The plots, however, are miles apart. While Gone Girl had that haunting cinematography to heighten the film’s mood, Return to Sender had costumes.
Yes, costumes. Rosamund Pike’s Miranda wore dresses that looked like they came out of the pages of a Laura Ashley catalog. But they didn’t just make Miranda beautiful, the dresses and the order in which they were worn echoed the events in the story.
The story… Mysophobic Miranda is a critical care nurse who’s moving upward in her profession to become a surgical nurse. She’s selling her house and moving. A stranger (whom he mistook as her blind date) rapes her inside her house. She survives and the rapist, William Finn (Shiloh Fernandez), goes to prison.
Unable to sell her house (no one buys a house where someone was raped, her agent tells her), Miranda tries to move on with her life. She starts writing to Finn in prison but the letters kept bouncing back marked “Return to Sender”. She persists until, one day, her letter came back with “You Win” scribbled on the envelope. Miranda starts visiting Finn in prison. After several visits, Finn tells her he is about to be released on parole. After his release, Miranda hires him to fix her porch.
Makes no sense? Miranda’s father (Nick Nolte) agrees. Nothing in Miranda’s actions makes sense. But then again, “sense” isn’t something that applies to Miranda. Even before she got raped, she was already mentally off. That’s something that’s made very clear early on in the film but for a viewer who’s slow to catch on, that Miranda is crazy is made unequivocally clear during the last ten minutes of the film when she finally takes her revenge on her rapist.
How do the clothes echo the story?
Before the rape, Miranda is seen wearing a white dress with red flowers. The effect is spring-like and, despite her apparent mental imbalance, she appears happy with her life.
On the day of the rape, Miranda is wearing a white dress.
By the time that Finn tells her of his impending release, she is shown in a floral dress.
When she finally takes her revenge on Finn, she has on another white dress.
In the last scene, when Miranda tells her father that Finn wouldn’t be coming back, she is in a white dress with light blue trimmings.
It doesn’t take a PhD in psychology to figure out the significance of the colors and patterns of Miranda’s dresses. She was wearing a dress with red flowers when she was looking forward to moving up professionally. She was wearing another floral dress when her chance for revenge was so near. The color of the dresses she wore when she was raped and when she took her revenge has nothing to do with purity — the white symbolizes the ice cold monstrosity that characterized the way Finn raped Miranda and how Miranda took her revenge on Finn. And the last dress? A blue sky peeping on an icy day which promises the coming of spring.
It’s genius, the way Miranda’s dresses were chosen. And the geniuses behind the costume design are known as Kurt and Bart who also did the costume design for Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2, The Dallas Buyer’s Club and Stoker.