Title: Nocturnal Animals
MPAA: Rated R for violence, menace, graphic nudity, and language
Director: Tom Ford
Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Synopsis: 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.
Nocturnal Animals is the new Tom Ford film (yes, that Tom Ford) and is a dark look on relationships, revenge, and one’s self-image. There is nothing humorous or light-hearted about this film. It will get under your skin and even get inside your head. Much like another film I reviewed this year, The Neon Demon, Nocturnal Animals is like nothing you will ever see and contains some of the more bizarre scenes you will see in a film this year. If I had to compare the two, I would still say The Neon Demon is the better film just because it was more memorable and offered better cinematography and directing. This film certainly isn’t for everyone, but for some it could become their favorite movie of the year, just because of how well it challenges the audience with its symbolism, messages, and the original story structure.
This film is very unique in its story structure because not only does it follow Amy Adams character, Susan, in the “modern-day,” but it also shows flashbacks of how she met her ex-husband Tony, played by Jake Gyllenhaal. There is a lot of history with these two characters, and it makes for a fascinating sequence of events of how they ended up where they are now, and why Tony is giving her this very dark revenge novel that he wrote in the first place. It is clear that the novel is about himself and Susan, and we also get to see scenes in the movie from the actual novel. It is important to note that these scenes are from the perspective of Susan while she is reading the book. Probably the best scenes in the movie come from the actual novel she is reading.
Tom Ford directed this film and proves once again that he is not only a gifted fashion designer, but director as well. The fact that he is also a fashion designer really makes sense while watching this film just because of how stylish it is, and how he is able to use color to magnify the film visually. I can tell he was influenced greatly by some great American filmmakers of our time like David Fincher and especially David Lynch. From the very fist scene in the film, Ford challenges the viewers with a bizarre montage that could have come straight from a Lynch movie. I won’t spoil it, but it is very strange and could turn off viewers instantly. However, it actually makes sense for the overall message of the movie and Susan’s psyche. She is a very interesting character, and performed brilliantly by Amy Adams.
The performances in this film, a long with Adams, are phenomenal, and might actually be the best thing about this film. Adams plays a completely different character than her character in Arrival which I respected, and Jake Gyllenhaal continues to impress me time and time again with how committed he is as an actor and how he is able to lose himself in his roles. This is probably the best I’ve seen from him since Nightcrawler. With those two characters being the leads, and with how talented both actors are, I was not surprised to see them pull off great performances. However, what I was most surprised about was how great Aaron Taylor-Johnson was. Now, Taylor-Johnson has never been an actor I really respected or admired. I never had a problem with him, but he, for the most part, really just played the same character in every movie. He was always the same likable, protagonist type and never really stood out in any one of his films. But, his role in Nocturnal Animals is the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of anything he has ever done. His character is maniacal, despicable, and slimy. Most people probably won’t even recognize him in this movie. Unfortunately, I knew about his Golden Globe nomination before I watched the film, so I already expected a great performance from him. I can only wonder if I never knew about his nomination, that I would even recognize he was in this movie at all. He was that good and really transformed into a completely different person. Also Michael Shannon gives a phenomenal performance, and continues to prove that he is one of Hollywood’s most underrated talents.
This film certainly is one that requires multiple viewings to really grasp what the story is trying to say. I have to warn future viewers of this film that it does leave you hanging in the end. I am personally someone who does not like those type of endings and prefer endings that are more satisfying and clear things up that you have been wondering since the opening shot. But if you are someone who likes to be challenged, and doesn’t mind more ambiguous endings than this just might be the film for you. I personally wasn’t blown away with the movie from a filmmaking stand-point, and there wasn’t enough that made me want to re-visit the movie, but it is certainly worth a try if you are a fan of these dark and disturbing thrillers. It certainly isn’t like anything you will ever see. My grade for this film is: