Iconic fashion designer Tom Ford directs the perfectly cast Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal in Nocturnal Animals – a freshly stylised, highly tense psychological thriller centering around an art gallery owner haunted by her ex husband’s novel, based on the 1993 novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright.
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2016 Venice International Film Festival and captivating from start to finish with its sharp paced tone and excellently written characters, this year’s most unique and equally strangest film presents itself as a gift to true film lovers, using its rawness and sheer shock value in allowing for a rewarding cinematic experience. Exploring the line between love and cruelty to become the ultimate tale of revenge whilst showcasing an outstanding supporting cast, Ford ensures that his second film after 2009’s A Single Man is one hell of a ride not to be missed!
Essentially a ‘story within a story’, telling two drastically different films within one, Susan (Adams) is a successful art gallery owner living in Los Angeles whilst Tony (Gyllenhaal)is a successful writer living elsewhere. Separated twenty years earlier after Susan left for another man, the divorced couple come in to contact with one another again after Tony sends the manuscript of his next novel, seeking her opinion.
Entitled ‘Nocturnal Animals’, we dive head first into the pages of Tony’s mind as Susan reads his story of a family suffering a violent tragedy. Taking on the form of metaphor upon metaphor on the mistakes and tragedies made within his real life relationship with his former wife, Tony’s writing becomes a clear personal message to Susan, who so intrigued and not able to put down what he has written, finds herself recalling her first marriage, beginning to feel burdened with guilt and regret.
As the intense, extremely confronting story of despair and grief unfolding within the pages begin to take shape of how he feels about Susan, Tony plants the seeds to get under his former lover’s skin which begins to affect all aspects of her personal life, leading to an impressive two –part film that’s unlike anything ever seen before. Back and forth between the two narratives as perfect can be and making effective use of flashbacks to tell an even bigger story, Adams and Gyllenhaal each share the lead remarkably well at different stages throughout, as two of the most complex and unpredictable characters known to screen in recent years tell you everything you think you know may be wrong.
As one of the most fashionable and influential men on the planet, it’s no surprise Tom Ford does what he does best by bringing with him an extreme sense of fashion and acute attention to detail in almost every aspect of the filming process to deliver a truly mind blowing-ly good looking film. By directing from a screenplay he also wrote and opting for a certain use of lighting to match the beautifully shot cinematography, he makes sure the crisp visuals and definitive theme throughout help to create an eerie tone in becoming a flawless counterpart to the fascinating characters inside.
In fine form as always, Adams is somehow able to be relateable, likable, unlikable, cold, vindictive, loving, passionate and caring all at once as the ever confusingly complex Susan, a character you either love to hate or hate to love, depending on how you look at it. Crushing it like she consistently does across a variety of different genres, here she sinks her teeth into a role well worth her talents, proving her versatility hasn’t wavered and much like her co-stars potentially knocks on the door of another Oscar nomination, if so making it her sixth.
Gyllenhaal is on fire pulling double duty in a dual role as both author turned ex-husband Tony but even more importantly and excitingly as the main character of the story within the story, Nocturnal Animal’s Edward Sheffield.
Portraying both characters with one hundred percent extraordinary talent, proving, in his thirty-fifth film, why he’s still one of our generations best actors, Gyllenhaal is the perfect left to Adams’ right as the two lead their respective co-stars on an epic twist and turn journey. This film sees familiar faces including Armie Hammer, Isla Fisher, Laura Linney and Michael Sheen all popping up for good measure and a standout performance by Michael Shannon as a no nonsense, no f***ing around police detective/justice seeking cowboy named Bobby Andes.
Intertwining two different worlds into one and embodying the dark hidden truths behind relationships, unrequited love and the idea of doing things to impress others, Nocturnal Animals may have the most bizarre and full on opening scene of any film ever, but is the intuitive product of sheer style, taste and passion inspired by a great novel turned into something even more special by a fashion icon turned film director.
Well acted, well edited and beautifully put together by an ensemble of exceptional individuals headlined by two of the world’s greatest performers, this is a personalised greeting transformed into a five star likely best picture Oscar nominated film worth every notch of your attention.
When you love someone, you can’t just throw it away.