The psychological thriller Nocturnal Animals is former Gucci designer Tom Ford’s second outing as a filmmaker, after his impressive 2009 debut A Single Man. Based on the 1993 novel Tony and Susan by American writer Austin Wright, the movie is a chillingly cool, multilayered examination of love and revenge, which tells its tale by way of two equally gripping stories, or rather one story within another story.
The first of these narratives follows art gallery manager Susan Morrow (Amy Adams), who one day receives the proof of her ex-husband Edward’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) latest novel. The text is a jarringly violent tale of a man (who in Susan’s mind resembles Edward) whose life is destroyed by a terrible crime committed on his family by a gang of sinister highway criminals. The juxtaposition of these two very different storylines – one that takes place in the lawless wild plains of western Texas, and the other in the polished sheen of the decadent and shallow New York elite – are complemented by scenes that tell of the relationship between the two protagonists. These sequences set each other off interestingly, rendering the scenes that visualise Edward’s book’s story as increasingly real whilst those depicting “realist” Susan’s perfect existence seem comparatively fake and parodic. This is somewhat shockingly demonstrated in the film’s outrageous opening sequence.
Knowing the director’s past, it is very easy to criticise the beautifully shot images of pristine designer interiors or gravelly sepia desert terrains as looking too “fashion” – a view that was perhaps more justifiable in A Single Man. Yet, here, such perfection is a much better fit and contrasts well with the harrowing physical and emotional violence depicted. As always, Amy Adams delivers a stellar performance and communicates the inner anguish of a regretful woman through the subtlest of means. Jake Gyllenhaal excels in an emotionally raw turn as a man who has loved and must now move on. Also Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Michael Shannon are fantastic as a psychotic redneck criminal and the detective out to get him.
Ultimately, Nocturnal Animals is an emotionally shattering experience, proving that Tom Ford is a formidable filmmaker whose new feature will probably do well during Oscar season.
Nocturnal Animals is released nationwide on 4th November 2016.
Watch the trailer for Nocturnal Animals here: