Movie Name: Nocturnal Animals
Studio: Fade to Black
Release Date(s): September 2, 2016 (Venice Film Festival)/November 18, 2016 (US)
MPAA Rating: R
Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is lost. Her relationship with her husband Hutton (Armie Hammer) is strained and there are financial problems involving her husband’s business and her art gallery. When she receives a copy of a novel from her ex-husband Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal), she remembers their relationship and its destruction as a novel of a roadside encounter goes horribly wrong.
Directed by Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals is Ford’s adaptation of Austin Wright’s 1993 novel Tony and Susan. The film was released at the Venice Film Festival and then received a wide release in November. The film was released to positive reviews and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor (Shannon).
Nocturnal Animals is no joke. Regardless what you think of the movie, it is relentless and unapologetic about being relentless. From the start to the end, the movie gives no comfort. This isn’t a bad thing, but it also means Nocturnal Animals isn’t for everyone.
The story is crafted in an interesting way. I’m a big fan of stories within stories (like Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin, Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, and Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire). The idea of art (within the context of a story) imitating life (within the story) really adds layers to a story. Here, a rather simple story about a woman who’s wrecked can be reflected in the novel written by her ex-husband…who is completely destroyed by his wife’s actions. It is the type of technique that allows for multiple viewings, but watching Nocturnal Animals multiple times might not be palpable.
The cast is great. Amy Adams is a solid actress but as the person reading the novel her role is almost supporting (but she does nail it in scenes like with her mother). Jake Gyllenhaal is really the star of the film in that he has a duel role and a role that must really range. The only humor in the movie is Michael Shannon who you could argue provides some levity but even he is manipulative in his strained humor. Armie Hammer plays the slimy husband and Laura Linney has a small (but good role) as Amy Adams’ mother representing her future. The story is fleshed out by the gang of Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Karl Glusman, and Robert Armanyo who help make one of the most uncomfortable scenes since Deliverance.
It is this ability to build the tension that Ford excels in. The whole road scene is so tense that it becomes hard to watch because you know where it is heading. This is contrasted with the “perfect” world of Amy Adams’ high income L.A. life. The movie is built on the contrast of the two worlds while building similarities.
Nocturnal Animals isn’t for those that are faint of heart. Sometimes it feels like it tries too hard and other times it feels that there is something lacking. For the most part, the movie is on point but not everyone will be able to tolerate the movie. Regardless how you feel about the movie, Nocturnal Animals will be a movie you probably won’t forget.