Film Review – Nocturnal Animals
Nocturnal Animals is fashion designer Tom Ford’s return to film. After his well-received debut with A Single Man in 2009, he is back with an adaptation of Austin Wright’s novel, Tony and Susan.
Nocturnal Animals centers on art gallery owner Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) and her increasing doubtfulness of her privileged existence in Los Angeles. Her life is thrown for a loop when she receives a manuscript of a novel called Nocturnal Animals by her ex-husband of 19 years, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal). Engrossing herself in the novel over a couple of days brings back memories and regrets of how Susan used to be and how she tossed Edward to the side. The manuscript’s story is the third part of the film’s timeline. As Susan reads it, the story becomes the major focus of the film. It is frankly the best part of the film, but throwing in Susan’s current life and reflections into the film make it a more interesting and intriguing film.
Susan was critical of Edward always using himself in his (failed) writing, but this time, it works and Susan is shockingly aware of the similarities. The novel within the film follows the Hastings family as they travel to Marfa, Texas straight through the night in the not-so-populated West Texas area. Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal), wife Laura (Isla Fisher), and daughter India (Ellie Bamber) run across some West Texas low class hooligans who run them off the road. Chief among these locals is Ray (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) with his two buddies, Lou (Karl Glusman) and Turk (Robert Aramayo). Things don’t turn out well resulting in both wife and daughter going missing (purposely leaving out spoilery plot points). It is with the help of police detective Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon) that Tony is trying to reach closure.
Considering Edward has made this story familiar to Susan, especially the wife and daughter having red hair, she starts to regret her current life and the ex-husband she treated poorly. She is not happy with her husband (Armie Hammer) and the return of Edward into her life has made her hope for more.
There is no doubt that the clothes (some are a bit quirky) and the scenery of Nocturnal Animals excel more than other films. Tom Ford somehow makes the desolate, unforgiving landscape of West Texas beautiful in its own way. The juxtaposition of West Texas with the rich aspects of Los Angeles’ elite make for a stark contrast. This is not a film wholly about beautiful people and their privileged yet depressing lives, and the story within the film makes it stand apart from Ford’s A Single Man.
Regret, revenge, mania, and sadness are all themes that run through Nocturnal Animals. This is not the film I expected to see based on the trailers, but that is a good thing. It has three different timelines running through it and a fictional story within a fictional film making it a complex film, but Tom Ford manages to weave the tale well. He throws the audience in and out of the Sheffield’s story right at the perfect moments. It is a film that will keep you on pins and needles and even has a couple of scares that resulted in this girl exclaiming, “Jesus Christ,” loudly. This is a well-done film and not your run-of-the-mill, typically structured drama that I believe audiences will love if they make it through the door.