Review – Nocturnal Animals

Luke Stevenson is a journalist at Community Care and an avid cinema-watcher. He is also one of the three hosts of The Popcorn Muncher Podcast.

Poster for 2016 dark thriller Nocturnal Animals

Genre: Thriller
Certificate: 15
UK Release Date: 4th November 2016
Runtime: 117 minutes
Director: Tom Ford
Writer: Tom Ford
Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Ellie Bamber, Laura Linney
Synopsis: Alone in her house with her husband away, a woman receives a parcel from her ex containing the manuscript to a brutal tale of blood-soaked revenge with stark parallels to their lives.

 

 

About 20 seconds after the final shot of Nocturnal Animals fades to black, you’ll find yourself still sat in your cinema chair, struggling to comprehend what you just witnessed. From its opening images of overweight, elderly women dancing naked in front of you to its final scene slowly crawling into darkness, fashion designer Tom Ford‘s sophomore feature commands every second of your attention.

The, at times, brutal story of Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) reading a novel written and sent to her by her ex-husband Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal), is a pitch-perfect tale that blends horror with tension and melancholia with tough emotional punches. Nocturnal Animals is the name of the novel sent to Adams early in the movie, and from there on we see its gritty Texas-set crime story unfold, while we cut repeatedly back to Adams’ reactions.

Often Adams is doing minimalist work. Ford is happy to merely frame a shot and let her do the work and she succeeds, elegantly conveying the outpouring of emotion and reflection she experiences as she progresses through the novel and sees parallels with her own history with Gyllenhaal’s ex-husband. Despite telling two stories whose themes overlap, the film is easy to follow, in part because it is anchored by strong performances throughout.

 

 

Adams is at the top of her game, managing to lift what little she has to work with to intriguing heights. Gyllenhaal likewise continues his movie hot streak following great performances in End of Watch, Southpaw and Nightcrawler. Michael Shannon’s drawling Texas sheriff is another great addition to the ensemble.

However, many, if not all, of the plaudits have to be taken by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. His skin-crawlingly edgy portrayal of Ray Marcus, the novel’s compelling villain, will have you breathing slowly into your hands and on the edge of your seat every time he appears on screen. He’s Nocturnal Animals‘ terrifying secret weapon.

Both strands of the film’s twin narratives are equally gripping. They are each told in distinct styles – a dirty-feeling crime story and a choreographed slow burn drama – and your first thought when finishing the movie is to watch it again to see just how these juxtapose and relate throughout the narrative. Every scene and perfectly orchestrated shot of this movie delivers new richness that deserves to be dissected three or four times more. Packed with emotion, drama and gripping performances, Nocturnal Animals is a must-see. Then see it again.

 

Pop or Poop?

Rating: Pop!

Nocturnal Animals is an assured, stylish film from Tom Ford that nimbly combines two narratives to compelling effect. Amy Adams proves to be a prime emotional anchor for two sprawling tales, with Jake Gyllenhaal on reliably unusual form in support. It’s a film that begs to be decoded and dissected for hours after the credits roll and it’s sure to reward repeat viewings.

 

Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

 

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