Natalia Dyer’s Things Heard & Seen Role, Explained

The 2021 horror-thriller movie Things Heard & Seen focuses on the toxic marriage between Catherine (Amanda Seyfried) and George Claire (James Norton), and Natalia Dyer’s minor role significantly alters the story. The movie, adapted from Elizabeth Brundage’s book All Things Cease to Appear, follows the couple as they move to the Hudson Valley and Catherine wonders if their old home has ghosts. Dyer played Willis Howell, a college student whom George meets at his town’s library. Willis is intelligent, friendly, and warm-hearted, and she makes the mistake of becoming involved with George, who is hiding demons from his wife and is therefore dangerous.

Dyer is known for playing the whip-smart Nancy Wheeler in Stranger Things and for smaller roles in the movies Tuscaloosa and Yes, God, Yes. Like Nancy, Willis is a character who listens to her gut instincts. In Things Heard & Seen, characters like Willis, orbit around the main couple, who are struggling, as George is self-centered and harsh and Catherine is lonely and battling an eating disorder. Willis has a profound effect on the couple, who are both changed by Willis’s presence in their lives, particularly Catherine, as it’s through Willis that she sees the evil truth about her husband.

Natalia Dyer Played Willis Howell In Things Heard & Seen

In Things Heard & Seen, Willis and George exchange witty banter when he comes to the library with his daughter Franny (Ana Sophia Hager). Willis knows having an affair with George is wrong, but finds him as funny and fascinating as Catherine once did. Although there are unanswered questions in Things Heard & Seen, Willis is a strong, clever character throughout her whole arc and though she makes some morally questionable choices, she knows who she is. It’s also through George and Willis’ affair that Catherine finally realizes she can’t trust George and that he has been unfaithful for a long time.

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Willis is also the cousin of Eddie Vayle (Alex Neustaedter), whom Catherine has employed to help around their new country property. The move to Hudson Valley and interactions with the locals drive home how trapped Catherine is. She sleeps with Eddie when she learns about George’s infidelity, which brings the affairs full circle, but this act of revenge doesn’t last and George kills Catherine. Willis is significant to the themes of Things Heard & Seen of marriage, mental health, and personal demons, as she is the reason why Catherine dies. George, haunted by an actual demon, attempts to feel more powerful by killing his wife.

Willis Helps Catherine See The Truth About George & Their Marriage

Willis standing outside in Things Heard & Seen

The Things Heard & Seen ending is devastating. George murders Catherine after she finds out he has been cheating on her. Willis is a catalyst for Catherine giving up hope that her marriage will work out and George not letting Catherine escape. Natalia Dyer’s character creates a profound shift in Catherine and George’s relationship that feels both shocking and inevitable. George is abusive and dangerous thanks to the spirit that has taken over his body and soul. George doesn’t want Catherine to run away with their daughter. If not for Willis, there might be another affair, but perhaps Catherine would remain in the dark.

The question of why Willis escapes and Catherine doesn’t is rooted in how George sees his affairs versus his marriage. Willis is able to get away because she realizes George’s sinister nature and breaks off their affair, but Catherine finds out the truth too late. George has no intention of killing Willis because he doesn’t need to be in control of her, and is content letting her remain a brief part of his romantic history. However, George wants to be in charge of Catherine spiritually and fully, which ties into the religious themes of Things Heard & Seen. In the end, George embraces the evil surrounding him.

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