All three films follow the same time period, but are told from the differing perspectives of Conor Ludlow (James McAvoy) and Eleanor Rigby (Jessica Chastain), a young married couple living in New York. Him looks at their relationship from Conor's angle, while Her follows Eleanor's. Them has the two separate films edited into a linear story; this is the version used for DVD and Blu-ray releases and broadcasting.
Conor spends his days working in his restaurant while his wife Eleanor returns to college for further education. During the course of their daily lives, the couple encounters a life changing event that threatens the stability of their marriage.
Eleanor's parents named her after the Beatles song "Eleanor Rigby", as they met waiting for a rumored Beatles concert in New York that never happened.
While on a date Connor (James McAvoy) reveals to his date, Eleanor (Jessica Chastain) that he does not have enough money to pay for their meal. The two dine and dash.
Years later, Connor runs a pub and is married to Eleanor. On a break, he visits Eleanor in their apartment, where she is depressed and confined to her bed after the death of their son. She tells him that she dreamed that he had an affair and she thinks it would be better for them if he did cheat on her. Connor is upset by what she is saying, but dismisses it. The following day returning home, he finds the apartment empty and receives a phone call that Eleanor has been hospitalized following a suicide attempt. At the hospital, Eleanor tells him she wants to separate and asks him to let her disappear for a while. Shortly after, Eleanor disconnects her phone and cuts off all communication.
Unable to live in their apartment alone, Connor moves back in with his father. While discussing the failure of his marriage with his best friend Stu (Bill Hader), Stu reveals to Connor that he saw Eleanor and believes she is taking classes at NYU. Connor begins to follow Eleanor. Eventually, he goes to one of her classes and passes her a note saying "Hi." Eleanor leaves the class and the two have an angry confrontation, with Eleanor insisting that he leave her alone. Connor is hit by a taxi cab, as he leaves and Eleanor stays with him until the ambulance arrives.
After going over the bills for his restaurant, Connor realizes they are losing money and cannot keep afloat. Depressed, he has a one-night stand with Alexis (Nina Arianda), the bartender of his restaurant.
Connor goes to Eleanor's parents' home to try to see her, but instead is confronted with his mother-in-law, Mary (Isabelle Huppert), who gives him little information and suggests that he and Eleanor want different things now. Shortly after, Eleanor comes by the pub and the two rent a car and go for a drive. He tells her that he will be packing up their apartment the following week as he can no longer hold onto it. When it begins to rain and the windshield wipers do not work the two begin to kiss but Connor confesses he has slept with someone else. The two return to the city.
Connor throws a closing party for his restaurant. While there he sees a young couple on a date and notices that they try to dine and dash. He follows them, chasing down the man and tackling him. Ultimately, he decides to let him go.
Connor goes to his former apartment to clean it out. He falls asleep, and when he wakes Eleanor is there. The two talk about their son and Eleanor reveals she can no longer remember what their son looked like. Connor tells her that he mostly looked like Eleanor, but with his eyes. The two sleep together, but by the time Connor wakes up, Eleanor is gone.
Sometime later Connor is working at his father's restaurant. He decides to take a walk before the late night rush. As he walks, he does not notice he is being followed by a woman who appears to be Eleanor.
While biking over a bridge Eleanor Rigby (Jessica Chastain) decides to commit suicide and climbs the barrier and throws herself into the Hudson River. She is successfully rescued. At the hospital she is collected by her sister, Katy (Jess Weixler) who brings her back to their parents' home where Katy, along with her young son, are also living. Unsure of what to do with her life Eleanor decides to listen to her father's suggestion that she re-enroll in school. She talks her way into late registration in professor Lilian Friedman's (Viola Davis) class and the two become friendly.
Eleanor's father (William Hurt) also attempts to get her to see a psychiatrist. It is revealed that Eleanor has recently lost a son and has been incapable of coping with the grief.
In class one day Eleanor is handed a note and realizes it has been sent to her by Conor (James McAvoy). She leaves class and the two have a heated argument where she tells him to leave her alone. Finally assenting, Conor leaves only to be hit by a passing car. Eleanor reveals to the taxi cab driver who hit him that Conor is her husband. Conor is only mildly injured by the incident and before he goes to the hospital he asks if he can see Eleanor again.
After Katy tells Eleanor that Conor has been by the house, Eleanor goes to see him at his restaurant, where she learns it is failing. She suggests that they rent a car and go driving aimlessly, something that she had once suggested they do when they were dating. Conor rents the car but it begins to rain heavily and their windshield wiper is broken making driving impossible. While they wait for the rain to pass Eleanor tries to initiate sex but Conor stops her and Eleanor realizes he has slept with someone else during their separation. She tells him it doesn't matter but on the return trip home she gets out of the car early and takes a moment to gather herself before continuing home.
The following evening, Eleanor and Katy go clubbing. Eleanor tries to pick up a stranger to have a one-night stand but finds herself unable to go through with it. Instead, she later goes to her former apartment to see Conor. She tells him she can no longer remember what their child looked like and he tells her that their son looked like her, but with his eyes. The two have sex, but Eleanor leaves and returns home. At her mother's suggestion she decides to leave for Paris and finish the anthropology dissertation she abandoned when she met Conor.
As she says goodbye to her family, her nephew asks when she will return and is told she will come back next summer.
Sometime later, Eleanor returns to New York City. She sees Conor and follows behind him for a while before calling out to him.Jessica Chastain as Eleanor Rigby
James McAvoy as Conor Ludlow
Viola Davis as Professor Lillian Friedman
William Hurt as Julian Rigby
Isabelle Huppert as Mary Rigby
Jess Weixler as Katy Rigby
Bill Hader as Stuart
Ciarán Hinds as Spencer Ludlow
Katherine Waterston as Charlie
Nina Arianda as Alexis
In February 2012, Variety announced that Jessica Chastain and Joel Edgerton had been signed to star in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, with screenwriter Ned Benson set to direct the two films. Edgerton was later replaced with Scottish actor James McAvoy in May 2012. William Hurt was also named to be starring in both films, but in an unspecified role.
Filming began in summer of 2012 in New York City, with filming lasting about 40 days and wrapping around late August of the same year. Of the film, Myriad executive Kirk D'Amico stated that the films' characters were "complex, and it is unique to have two different scripts to tell the story".
Myriad Pictures initially began pre-selling the rights to the two films at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, with the films being sold in nine territories. After the film's Toronto premiere, The Weinstein Company acquired domestic distribution rights to the film for $3 million.
On June 27, 2014, The Weinstein Company released the first trailer for the film.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby was met with generally positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 62%, based on 77 reviews, with an average rating of 6.5/10. The site's consensus reads: "Led by strong performances from Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is a hauntingly original rumination on love and loss."
Kyle Smith of the New York Post, while commenting on the film's gimmicky title and plot similarities to the 2010s drama film Rabbit Hole, found the film elegant and wrote that Benson makes it "ache and shimmer like a sublime concerto."