‘Nocturnal Animals’

Film

50805_AA_6087 print_v2lmCTRST+SAT3F Academy Award nominee Amy Adams stars as Susan Morrow in writer/director Tom Ford’s romantic thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features

No Spoilers

Last night the luminous Amy Adams and her director Tom Ford took to the London stage to try and explain just why ‘Nocturnal Animals’ works so beautifully. Adams pointed out that Ford allows the performances to breathe instead of cutting them to death – and it shows. The most wrenching moments in this film are the quietest.

It won’t be to everyone’s taste; it’s set in the world of beautiful people (something Ford knows a lot about) but the emotions are real and resonant. Ford’s first images shock and nicely set ‘Nocturnal Animals’ apart from his last film, ‘A Single Man’. Then we head into the Hollywood hills to one of those glacial palaces that imprison their rich occupants. Susan (Adams) is a gallery owner with a business on the slide, unhappily married to the perfect, waxen, philandering Armie Hammer. When she receives a manuscript from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), she finds his book is dedicated to her, so through one long night she reads it.

We then follow three stories – how Susan and Edward met, Susan’s present-day life and the novel itself. It’s this last part, surprisingly, that makes up the largest portion of the film, because it holds the key to Susan and Edward’s relationship.

And the split tales of fiction and fact are as far apart as they can be. In the novel, Edward makes himself the lead in a palm-sweatingly tense family drama involving events on a lonely Texas road one night. In this section English actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson sports a perfect West Texas accent, giving himself an instant Best Supporting Actor chance in an electrifying role.

All of the characters are defined by whether they are strong or weak in character. It’s an unusual technique, and one that then asks us if that rule can be changed. Even Laura Linney, cropping up as Amy’s mother in a gruesomely funny cameo, is defined by her strength.

And we start to find the links between the book and reality – many more than at first appearance. A devastating final shot locks the whole history in place, and to know any more would spoil the viewing experience. It’s worth adding that Michael Shannon gives another superb performance as a sheriff, and that the film shifts Ford into a much higher echelon of Hollywood directors.

There will probably be a few complaints from Ken Loach fans about ‘first-world problems’ but cinema should be about dreams, and ‘Nocturnal Animals has a disturbing dream-like quality that clings long after the closing g image.

 

One comment on “‘Nocturnal Animals’”

  1. Steve says:

    Thanks! Hope to see this next week – Really appreciate the recommend.

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