Nocturnal Animals, 2016.
Directed by Tom Ford.
Starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, and Laura Linney.
An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.
Watching Nocturnal Animals is an enthralling, horrifying and intense experience. A film that is open to interpretation and will be discussed for a long time. Amy Adams plays Susan an unhappy, insomniac art gallery owner with a cheating husband and a past full of betrayal and regrets. One day she receives a manuscript in the post from her first husband Edward (Gyllenhaal). Settling down to read it over a weekend she’s haunted by the violent and terrifying nature of the book and how it reflects on the break-up of her first marriage.
Tom Ford’s second feature film is visually luscious and rich. Encapsulating the barren wastelands of Texas through to the clinical coldness of Susan’s New York home and the rich colours and warmth of her past life with Edward. You expect a designer’s film to look beautiful and Ford’s expert hand is phenomenal throughout. The unusual framing device also works seamlessly. We have three separate scenarios happening throughout; firstly there is Susan’s present day life, secondly the book she is reading is played out on screen (with Gyllenhaal acting as the main protagonist in the book), and thirdly the flashbacks to her life with Edward. What could have been jarring and confusing blends together perfectly and the symbolism throughout is spot on.
Amy Adams is an actress who has excelled in every role she’s been given and Nocturnal Animals is no different. She plays Susan as cold and hard on the outside but in the moments where she’s thinking about her betrayal and her fears as she reads the book, the simples expression from Adams is enough to understand the emotional journey she goes on in this film. Gyllenhaal takes on two roles this time. As the real life Edward he’s charming, sensitive and from Susan’s perspective – weak. The true grit of Gyllenhaal’s talents are used as he plays Tom Hastings, the lead character in his novel. Tom suffers a traumatic and horrifying event and his evolution throughout is astounding. Gyllenhaal has been choosing excellent roles over the last few years and Tom Hastings is one of his best performances.
The supporting cast are also phenomenal. We unfortunately don’t see anywhere near enough of Laura Linney and Armie Hammer but Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson make up for that. Shannon is his typically witty self and he takes the standard role of a police detective and elevates it to another level. Taylor-Johnson’s performance is simply superb. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a character who had zero redeeming qualities but Taylor-Johnson’s character Ray is exactly that. He’s a deplorable human being and Taylor-Johnson’s performance is unnerving and chilling.
Nocturnal Animals is the type of film that will keep you thinking long after you’ve seen it. Analysing the parallels between the storylines could take years and the slightly abrupt and uncomfortable ending is one to ponder over. It’s a slow burner that is an excellent portrait of how to subtly exact revenge.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★