Amy Adams, described by some as “the new Leonardo DiCaprio” for her immense body of incredible work and lack of Oscars, starred in not one but two stunning films in 2016. She was at the front and centre of Denis Villeneuve’s cerebral sci-fi Arrival, yes, but she also appeared in an even more twisted and thought-provoking piece of work by fashion designer turned filmmaker Tom Ford. Let’s take a closer look at Nocturnal Animals.
Despite having a title that led many patrons at my local arts centre to believe this was a documentary about owls, Nocturnal Animals is in fact a very dark and harrowing thriller. Amy Adams plays wealthy art gallery owner Susan Morrow, a lady in a bleak colourless life who slowly becomes consumed by the novel Nocturnal Animals, penned by her estranged ex-husband Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal). As the sun-drenched novel plays out onscreen (with Gyllenhaal also playing the lead character of his work), the dark story becomes increasingly violent and Susan begins to interpret it as a threat – especially after she ruined Edward’s life many years ago.
Nocturnal Animals is a film of two halves – the real world and the fiction world. As the film goes on, these two halves become more and more intertwined with scenes jumping back and forth between them to connote how absorbed by this dark work Susan has become. But as the story-within-the-story Nocturnal Animals becomes more and more intense and exciting, the jumps back to Susan’s bleak life are jarring and, if anything, irritating. The novel at the heart of this film could’ve easily made an entire film itself, as the tale of violent revenge and obsession is stunning and engrossing. But the film suffers – albeit only slightly – when we’re thrust back into the rather uneventful and inconsequential Susan plot.
This film is at its best when it is deep into the dark fiction world. The film’s Oscar nomination came for Michael Shannon’s Detective Andes who exists purely in Sheffield’s novel and Aaron Taylor-Johnson walked away with a Golden Globe for his terrifying performance as Ray Marcus within Nocturnal Animals’ story. Jake Gyllenhaal is incredible here too, as the tortured and obsessed Tony Hastings who suffers through something no husband/father should have to. But the film’s criticism is shared with the source novel upon which it is based – titled Tony & Susan – in that it gets the viewer/reader deep into the story-within-the-story and yanks them out frequently for some Susan development. I’ve got to stress, the Susan bits aren’t bad – not by a long shot – they pale in comparison to the mesmerising fiction world plotline.
Nocturnal Animals is a film of immense style and backs it up with immense substance. Fashion designer Tom Ford’s direction gives the film a hauntingly beautiful artistic flair – the sort of flair that only someone out of the arts world could pull off – and Abel Korzeniowski’s score is one of 2016’s finest. Seamus McGarvey’s cinematography turns every shot into a work of art and Joan Sobel’s editing keeps us on our toes as we bound between the dual storylines. Nocturnal Animals is an expertly made piece of work with absolutely everything working perfectly. It’s like a finely tuned machine…
Nocturnal Animals is a modern masterpiece. Will it go on to be a cult classic? Time will tell, but there is a very strong possibility.
Nocturnal Animals at CeX
Get your daily CeX at