Based on Austin Wright’s novel ‘Tony and Susan’, ‘Nocturnal Animals’ is like a complex puzzle. Just as well it’s helmed by Tom Ford who is good at crafting intricate tales. Debuting as director with 2009’s ‘A Single Man’, his initial effort revealed a person keen on details. From the fashion sense to the maze-like plot, that film marked him as one to watch. He returns to the director’s chair with ‘Nocturnal Animals’, another remarkable film making full use of his myriad of talents.
Art gallery owner Susan (Amy Adams) has remarried and is busy with life. Receiving a manuscript from her ex-husband writer Edward (Jack Gyllenhaal), her interest is piqued. Reading his novel about a family running into trouble on a stretch of road in the dead of night, Susan becomes increasingly disturbed. Remembering her often harsh relationship with Edward, Amy comes to believe the manuscript is a veiled threat against her. It quickly transpires there may be more than meets the eye as reality and fantasy merge.
‘Nocturnal Animals’ is tough and uncompromising viewing full of several meanings. It’s the type of movie where you question what you’ve seen and why characters do certain actions. That’s a mark of a high quality film forcing you to use your brain. Susan’s insecurity at Edward’s motives in sending his novel adds to the air of mystery and danger. Whether his act is one of love or revenge is left for us to answer with the fictional story splashing turmoil into her real life.
Adams and Gyllenhaal give one of their finest performances in an occasionally uneven movie. The fictional tale, also featuring great roles for Michael Shannon as a detective and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as evil-doer Ray, is extremely compelling. This makes the ‘real-life’ scenes tame by comparison and making one wish the fictional was the main focus. Ford’s direction is solid despite this with the excellent score, lush cinematography and production design generating an attention-grabbing experience.
Almost like an Alfred Hitchcock mind-bending story, ‘Nocturnal Animals’ is a dark film. It might not be to everyone’s tastes but it carves out its own unique space. Hopefully Tom Ford doesn’t wait too long to direct another movie as his flair for originality is sorely needed in today’s bland cinema landscape.
Movie Review Rating out of 10: 7
Movie Review by Patrick Moore
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