Nocturnal Animals

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nocturnal Animals. (Universal Pictures)
Jake Gyllenhaal in Nocturnal Animals. (Universal Pictures)

What it's about:

A successful Los Angeles art-gallery owner's idyllic life is marred by the constant traveling of her handsome second husband. While he is away, she is shaken by the arrival of a manuscript written by her first husband, who she has not seen in years. The manuscript tells the story of a teacher who finds a trip with his family turning into a nightmare. As Susan reads the book, it forces her to examine her past and confront some dark truths.

What we thought:

As a designer, Tom Ford understands the shape of the human body. He knows how to manipulate material in such a way that it brings out the best in whoever wears his designs. 

It should then come as no surprise that he brings this talent with him when creating his cinematic masterpieces.

With his directorial debut in A Single Man, Ford proved from the get-go that he was a master craftsman no matter the field he works in. Nocturnal Animals cements this fact. 

The dark drama is a devastatingly beautiful melancholic cinematic experience that keeps the audience guessing until the very end. Ford is in no rush to have the story unfold, instead the narrative blooms slowly into a full flower before it withers away again leaving behind only a lingering memory.

The dual narratives, both real and fictional, play off within the same space with clear distinctive features and two very different rhythms. Later, towards the end, a third flashback storyline enters and all three tales start to gallop at the same pace. 

The flow between the different tales is almost poetic in its construction. There’s a link from the one world into the other and back again – be it light, sound or dialogue that crosses over and melts together with great precision. 

Ford has an eye for what is beautiful and he manages to weave it into his story, frame after frame after frame. Even in the most gruesome of scenes he finds a glimmer of exquisiteness. It’s this visual perspective that turns everything he touches into gold. Every Tom Ford project drips elegance, sophistication and a sublime attention to even the finest of details. This film is no exception.

The stellar cast gracefully compliments everything that Ford sets out to do. Not only are they visually flawless in this piece, but they also ooze talent and possess a certain amount of grit needed to tap into the darker themes. 

Amy Adams, as Susan Morrow, is classic Hollywood starlet meets vixen. Her emotional depth that she brings to the character adds a level of complexity that’s exhilarating to watch evolve. She leads the audience on the gripping journey with such ease that you don’t ever get lost jumping from one plot to the next.

Jake Gyllenhaal, as both Tony Hastings and Edward Sheffield, delivers two very different performances that show off his tremendous talent and versatility. He easily switches between romantic lead and depressed mess with both portrayals packing equal punch. There’s a sadness that constantly sits in his eyes and swells up into tears. Ford knows exactly how to highlight the best of what this handsome actor has to give and it’s magnificent to see on the big screen.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson, as Ray Marcus, gives the film its villainous antagonist without dragging along any clichés or preconceived notions. Everything he does fills the audience with hate and anger and makes your skin crawl. 

Every character in the film feels like a uniquely selected and perfectly formed gem that sparkles whenever the light hits it, even if just for a brief moment.

Nocturnal Animals is an alluring cinematic tour de force that’s enthralling to watch and will leave you emotionally raw as it haunts you long after you’ve left the cinema. It’s a magnificent piece of work.    

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