Nocturnal Animals – Film Review by Frank L.
Director: Tom Ford
Writers: Tom Ford (screenplay), Austin Wright (based on the novel “Tony and Susan” by)
Stars: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon
Tom Ford wrote the screenplay as well as directing this new thriller. He began his career in the fashion house of Gucci; a world over which he has cast his spell and then created his own label. He has already shown his skill as a director with “A Single Man” (2010).
The opening scene is in the world of performance art in a chic Los Angeles private, sparklingly white, art gallery. Ford eschews his past in the fashion industry as his models are rotund, somewhat mature and without any designer clothes. They have nowhere and nothing to hide. It is a visually memorable sequence. The art gallery is owned by Susan (Amy Adams) whose husband Hutton (Armie Hammer) is on business in New York and misses the opening. She has been married to him for some time and she has her suspicions about his fidelity. Meanwhile she receives a manuscript of a novel from her first husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhall) which is unsettlingly dedicated to her. She cautiously starts to read it. It is about a husband (Gyllenhall again) and wife (Isla Fisher) and their daughter (Ellie Bamber) caught up in a violent kidnapping on vacation in West Texas. There are echoes in the novel to Susan’s relationship with Edward.
The rich, smooth, urban world of Los Angeles is in stark contrast to the vast emptiness of West Texas. They are two worlds that are in every sense very far apart. Fisher and Gyllenhall give outstanding performances as the fictional couple in the novel and also in their “real lives”. They are joined in the novel by Mike Shannon, a somewhat maverick cop, who has a terminal diagnosis of cancer. The other memorable part is that of Ray (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) a nasty piece of goods, with a twisted mind, who is somebody anyone would want to avoid especially in the empty wastelands of Texas. As an additional delight Laura Linney has a fine cameo piece as Amy’s mother.
Despite its violent scenes, it is all beautifully rendered. The story makes for many uneasy moments and Ford weaves a formidable, slow burning story of revenge. The ending is restrained but inspired. Ford is both a very talented director and a writer. He is blessed with an exquisite eye both for the world of fashion and cinema. He adds to these accomplishments a true skill at the art of suspense.