Tom Ford is a world-class stylist, with unique and undeniable taste for fashion that is trendy but also remarkably classy. With his 2009 directorial debut, A Single Man, he surprised the cinema industry: no one expected he could realise such an intimate, well-crafted picture. His obsession for detail shone throughout the film.
Nocturnal Animal is essentially a thriller. Although distant from the fashion world, it starts off with a glamorous yet disturbing sequence of very overweight women dancing without clothes. The alluring tone set by the first five minutes, however, fades away when the film within the film begins.
Susan (Amy Adams) is an unsatisfied, unfulfilled LA gallerist. Her wealthy husband (Armie Hammer) has a parallel life in New York, where he constantly travels for business, with a younger woman. One day, Susan receives a manuscript from her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal), a novel named Nocturnal Animals, dedicated to her. The book tells a violent story that she lives as she reads it: it’s the beginning of the movie within the movie.
In this story, Gyllenhaal is Tony, a man who experiences horrific violence with his family while driving through a desolate Texan road at night time. A group of joyriders attack them and kidnap his wife and daughter. As the two timelines intertwine, the protagonist reflects on her life.
Technically, there’s quite a gap between the “two” films: the real story is represented the way you imagine Ford would direct a movie (had you not seen A Single Man): strong artificial lights, an obsessive use of the red colour and a script with lines that seem a bit too obvious. However, the fictional story is masterfully realised, and the performances of Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (almost unrecognisable) are breathtaking.
There are also several nods to the gay community: Andrea Riseborough is married to an openly homosexual man (Michael Sheen), and Amy Adams’s brother has been disowned by her bourgeois parents who do not accept his sexual orientation.
All in all, Nocturnal Animals is another strong work from Tom Ford and, even though it’s not as sophisticated as his debut, it surely shows the designer’s capacity to write and produce solid movies.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Nocturnal Animals is released nationwide on 4th November 2016.