Nocturnal Animals

Director: Tom Ford.
Screenplay: Tom Ford.
Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Armie Hammer, Isla Fisher, Ellie Bamber, Karl Glusman, Robert Aramayo, Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Sheen, Jena Malone, Graham Beckel.

“Enjoy the absurdity of our world. It’s a lot less painful. Believe me, our world is a lot less painful than the real world”

Former fashion-designer Tom Ford took his first steps into film directing with A Single Man in 2009. It’s a film that didn’t initially catch my eye but when I finally caught up with it, it really impressed. In fact, I thought it a near masterpiece of style and composition. As a result, I’ve been very eager to see what Ford would do next and although his follow-up isn’t quite as good as his debut, there’s still much to recommend. 

Plot: Wealthy art curator Susan Morrow (Amy Adams), receives a manuscript from her ex-husband Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal). As she settles into reading Edward’s story, she is forced to confront her past and the breakdown of their relationship as the story within the manuscript turns violent and deadly.

Based on the novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright, there’s a clever structure to Nocturnal Animals. It’s a story-within-a-story and not being content with that, it also employs flashbacks just to make it more narratively complex and frames it’s all as three stories in one. The stories aren’t vignettes or separate, though. They are very much related and feed into each other as the film addresses the differences between past and present and the fine line between reality and fantasy with one fictional story even serving as a metaphor for another. It’s quite an ambitious project for Ford in only his second film but he’s able to keep command of all the narratives and manages to combine a reflective drama with a mysterious, psychological thriller while bringing it all together to make a complete and coherent whole.

It’s not just Ford’s narrative juggling that impresses, though. There’s plenty to admire throughout the entire film; Ford’s direction is ambitious and, like his work in A Single Man, he has a keen artistic eye with some vibrant and striking imagery captured by Christopher Brown’s art direction, Seamus McGarvey’s sombre cinematography and the gorgeous production design by Shane Valentino and Meg Everist invites you into the characters’ dark, dual existences without ever losing its consistent tone. It also boasts a very impressive cast who are all on good form; after her anchoring work in Arrival, the always reliable Amy Adams delivers another strong, reserved performance; the Oscar nominated Michael Shannon manages to convey so much with the minutest facial expression and Golden Globe winning Aaron Taylor-Johnson tackles a darker role, that he’s not normally associated with. Put simply, he knocks it out the park and I hope that Johnson continues to explore more of his range in the future.

Like the performances themselves, there are so many layers to Nocturnal Animals that it stays with you long after the credits have rolled. It’s had its critics with many claiming style over substance as a major issue. Personally, I disagree, and happen to think it has an abundance of both. It’s a very well crafted film that’s awash with symbolism and has you continually questioning it’s meanings and messages.

A complex and elegant love story that successfully interweaves with a sadistic film-noir. Tom Ford has shown that A Single Man was no fluke. This a director with sophistication and one that delivers material that’s as dense as it is captivating.

Mark Walker

Trivia: Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal have been cast in another project called ‘Ezekiel Moss’ which would have been directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman. However, the project was scrapped after Hoffman’s death in 2014

18 Responses to “Nocturnal Animals”

  1. I really disliked the movie and thought it was very juvenile with all the jump scares and quite banal plot but Shannon’s performance here is my single favorite performance from 2016. He made it worth seeing, just an amazing work and so funny too

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was actually surprised how much I liked it, Sati. I thought all the narratives blended seamlessly and I really like its use of atmosphere. Great performances too. Shannon and Taylor-Johnson were both outstanding but I thought Gyllenhaal overplayed it on this rare occasion.


  2. I found this film very haunting and arresting. Ford’s direction was so striking and kept me invested. And Michael Shannon rocked it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It does rather beg the question as to why Adams hasn’t been Oscar nominated doesn’t it? I mean I greatly respect Muriel Streep and everything, but her performance in Florence Foster Jenkins wasn’t as good as Adams in Arrival, say (not seen this yet so can’t comment).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hmmm, might have to bump this up my watch list Mark! Great work, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This wasn’t perfect but so fun to look at, and some terrific performances too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I loved this. A mixed reception usually means its a keeper. I think The Neon Demon has a 56% rating on RT and that was easily my favourite film of last year, and after five times I still can’t stop watching it.

    I need to see more Shannon. He is pure awesome

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: