The Devil You Know (2013) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Kathryn Vale (Lena Olin) is a reclusive ex-movie star with a dark secret and a daughter hoping to follow in her mother's movie-star footsteps. When Kathryn attempts to make a career comeback, she is threatened by an anonymous blackmailer. The resulting events force Kathryn to confront the truth about herself and those around her.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The movie opens with actress Zoe Hughes (Rosamund Pike), eerily peering through bushes with an unidentifiable expression. A movie production crew seems disgruntled and aggravated with Zoe's performance, but their moods change when they receive an unexpected visit from Zoe's mother. Her mother is Kathryn Vale (Lena Olin), who is a legendary, A-List actress with a young new husband and a successful book. Zoe struggles to establish fame beyond the scope of Kathryn's famous shadow. However, Zoe's acting skills are forced, and despite her beauty, she is unable to live up to the Hollywood expectations of being Kathryn Vale's daughter.

    Zoe attempts to elicit jealousy from her mother by pretending to surpass her success. After lying about the success of an audition, Zoe is disappointed to find that Kathryn is proud of her, and the lie grants Kathryn the confidence to return to show-biz. The ineffectiveness of Zoe's ruse angers her more. It is revealed that Zoe is having an affair with her mothers new husband, Jake (Dean Winters). As Jake dresses in Zoe's apartment, he establishes that he does not miss Zoe when he is with his wife. Zoe is offended. His visit with Zoe is interrupted by her mother. While Jake hides in Zoe's apartment, Kathryn tells her daughter that she has received a threat about the suspicious death of her former husband. When Kathryn leaves, Jake confronts Zoe, accusing her of sending the threat. Zoe denies involvement.

    The harassing mail continues, and Kathryn resorts to a mansion in the woods to hide away. Kathryn's beloved assistant Edie joins her in the woods sans invitation. Soon Zoe and Jake follow. In the remote mansion, flashbacks show that Zoe seduced and then killed Kathryn's former husband just to spite her. It is also revealed that Edie and Zoe have conspired to destroy Kathryn's new marriage by causing her to doubt Jake's innocence in the threatening letters. Kathryn trusts Jake too much, so the scheming duo plot to fake the murder of Zoe in order to instill more doubt about Jake.

    The quiet house is awakened by gun shots in the middle of the night. Edie runs to Zoe's limp body. Jake barely sees the crime scene but assumes that Zoe is dead, so he runs to shield Kathryn from the sight. Kathryn brandishes a gun at Edie and Jake demanding answers about Zoe's whereabouts. Impatiently, Zoe reveals that she is alive and kills Jake in the midst of the interrogation. After killing Jake, Zoe exclaims that she expected Kathryn to lose trust in him long ago. Zoe runs outside for air and is chased by her shocked mother. Zoe says that she refuses to go to jail, but Kathryn is exasperated and says she will not protect Zoe any more. Zoe threatens to blame her mother for Jake's death but Kathryn walks away in apathy and relief. In fear, Zoe pleads to her mother for help as the police approach, but Kathryn keeps walking with a smirk.

    One year later, Kathryn and Edie sit in the back of a limo reveling in the glory of Kathryn's return to the big screen. A radio announcement is made of Kathryn's Oscar nomination in the wake of public sympathy. Kathryn and Edie smile.

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