“Nocturnal Animals” (2016)
Directed by Tom Ford
Starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon
Running Time 116 Minutes, Rated R.
3.5 Mitch’s out of 5
Former fashion designer turned director Tom Ford delivers a tantalizing yet chillingly bleak picture with his sophomore effort “Nocturnal Animals”.
I found Tom Ford’s direction to carry the juxtaposition of being both beautifully sleek yet heavy-handed in a way that hammers it’s nails all the way in. Ford uses three storylines interweaving in “Nocturnal Animals” that carries the feeling of getting lost in a good book where the dialogue jumps off the page, and that page gets closer to your face with each turn.
After one of the more ‘sparkling’ opening credit sequences I have ever seen, we meet Susan Morrow, played by the absolutely crushing-it Amy Adams, an L.A. socialite art gallery owner who is unhappily married to her bronzed perfect husband played by Armie Hammer. In the mail is a manuscript from her first husband Edward, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who has titled it “Nocturnal Animals”, a pet name he would give her for her never sleeping ambitious ways.
The next storyline we encounter is from Edwards’ pages he wrote. There he tells the story of a man named Tony, who is also poignantly played by Gyllenhaal, who with his wife and daughter included is terrorized by three hellions in the rural wastelands of West Texas. After the horrendous interceding, Tony’s wife and daughter’s life are taken and Tony is slowly turned from his pacifist ways to man of vengeance with the helpful nudge of a grizzled justice-wanting detective brilliantly played by Michael Shannon.
The third and final storyline is the courtship and demise of Susan and Edward's marriage nearly 20 years prior. Susan wanting nothing more than to not turn into her mother, played by Laura Linney with some gigantic Texas hair but crumbling to her fate and knowing that one day she will regret the horrible thing she has done to Edward.
The second storyline is obviously the most gripping and effective thematically, but while not perfectly, they all three mesh together with substance and something to say. If it were up to me Adams doesn’t get the nod here because she gets it from “Arrival”, but Shannon does, as he turns in another solid quiet scene chewer. Who needs praise is the Gyllenhaal’s unflashy performance, especially as Tony. Tony’s grief is one that is suppressed until the pot boils over, and Gyllenhaal does a masterful job of boiling over at just the right time.