In the TV series Big Little Lies, we are repeatedly told that Nathan left Madeline and Abigail 15 years ago. We also see a lot of friction and conflict between the two families.

So how is it that Madeline and Nathan are both living with their (new) families in Monterey? Was this a deliberate arrangement or some sort of a coincidence? (I'm not sure if this was explained in the TV series and I missed it. Or perhaps it is only explained in the book which I haven't read.)


1 Answer 1


The TV series has yet to ever directly address this, but we do know that

  1. Monterrey has a good school system
  2. Nathan and Madeline were married and Abigail is their biological daughter
  3. Madeline has unprecedented expectations for her children's future, because she didn't have the opportunity to be able to get ahead in life herself.
  4. We also know that she has issues with either one or both her parents, as they have chosen to be more supportive of her brothers & her failed marriage to Nathan makes her feel undeserving, hence why she sabotages her marriage with Ed by cheating on him with Joseph.

So at the very least it seems like there is an intentional choice for both Nathan and Madeline to have stayed in Monterrey (or moved there?) for Abigail's sake. However, Madiline also comments that she's annoyed always running into Nathan and Bonnie, suggesting that despite that they live in the same town, there is some coincidence in how often they come across each other, when events are not planned.

Beyond that though (and like with several of the other characters) we really don't know what the exact nature of their backstories are, only given glimpses and hints sometimes serving as misdirection to generate suspense and/or play into the way Jean-Marc Vallee' (and Andrea Arnold) have cut & shot the work with unique angled shots (ie: watching a person drive through the rear view mirror) or with sequences shot that have missing pieces in the sequences themselves, or having the character visualize their emotions in other "scapes" being interwoven into the real events (ie: Jane visualizing catching up to Perry) or having split second flashbacks (ie: Bonnie's childhood memory).

I think we're suppose to be able to relate to the characters in the now despite not knowing whom exactly they were, where the not knowing plays into the mystery elements, including themes about people coming to terms, while "being in the dark".

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