As Tom Ford (A Single Man) is obviously a creative guy one would expect nothing less of the films he makes. As you would expect in his second film every detail has been meticulously done. It is stylish (again duh) and the imagery is often stunning. Yet because it was so restrained and artistic I found I could not connect with the emotions of the story.
Many years after their divorce following a short marriage, a couple begins to learn things about each other and even themselves they were not aware of. Life has seemingly gone on since the divorce for Susan (Amy Adams – The Arrival, American Hustle), who is wealthy and runs a successful art gallery in Los Angeles. She is remarried Huttom Morrow (Armie Hammer – The Social Network, The Birth of a Nation), but the more we learn about them the more we realize that it is a loveless marriage in which neither is happy.
Out of the blue Susan receives a package which turns out to be a manuscript of a novel called Nocturnal Animals written by her ex-husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal – Donnie Darko, Zodiac). He wants her opinion of it. The story is about a husband Tony (Gyllenhaal), wife (Isla Fisher – Rango, Wedding Crashers) and daughter (Ellie Bamber – Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) who are ran off the road by three crazies. Tony is left in the desert alone after the three take his wife and daughter. It soon follows that the two were raped, tortured then murdered. Some time passes but Tony is not done with what happens so he finds himself partnered up with a dying cop (Michael Shannon – Loving, Revolutionary Road) to gain revenge on those three men who took from his what he loved.
While reading the manuscript Susan is brought back to memories from her relationship with Edward due to the links to their life together. The deeper she gets into the memories and the manuscript the more she begins to interpret the story as one of revenge. All this makes her rethink the choices she has made in her own life. It even causes her feelings for Edward to reemerge.
There are precious few directors who have an eye like Tom Ford. This is a story told through the visuals. The visuals of the film are mesmerizing. Everything, from Amy Adams hair to the house she lives in, is sleek and smooth. So much so that they draw your attention away from the cold and precise nature of the story that is unfolding.
A feeling of trying to say a lot runs throughout the film and yet at the end of it all I got nothing from the film. It said nothing to me. Probably because the way it was constructed I felt no connection to Susan or Edward/Tony. In the end, I did not care what happened to either. A good film usually brings the viewer on a trip somewhere. That trip will have a beginning, a middle and an ending. Nocturnal Animals had none of these.
It is films like this and The Arrival (she had quite a year!) in which Amy Adams shows the breadth of her talent. In the two films a lot of the acting or depicting of the character takes place on her face. Not many words are uttered by Susan so what she is thinking and feeling has to come across on Adams’ face. One of the few who can hold an audience’s attention with this. A versatile actress.
-The Making of Nocturnal Animals
-Previews of The American, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Closed Circuit, Hanna, The Place Beyond the Pines, Promised Land