As a fashion designer, it’s unsurprising that Tom Ford is preoccupied with the idea of the pretty. Nocturnal Animals is an exercise in the disruption of beauty, right from its bizarre opening credits. The film balances multiple narratives, grounded in the present of its protagonist Susan (Adams, captivating) who receives a proof of a novel to be published by her ex-husband (Gyllenhaal). At first glance Susan is immaculate, sharp, and wealthy; but she has personal troubles and self-doubt simmering beneath the surface, which manifests in her fear and obsession over the novel. The glamorous visuals of her surrounding comforts are soon shaken by the violent revenge novel dedicated to her (which owes a lot to Cormac McCarthy), the raw, aggressive narrative working as an extended metaphor for their relationship.
Ford expertly plays with the audience’s expectations, the line between the ‘reality’ of the film and the meta-narrative blurring as Susan subconsciously connects her own experiences and memories to the novel. This makes Nocturnal Animals feel somewhat erratic at first, which is not helped by an interlude in the fashion world – the tone shifting from paranoid thriller to something more akin to The Devil Wears Prada. That said, everyone involved plays their part excellently even if most of the cast is underused, excluding Adams, Gyllenhaal and Shannon (typically fantastic). Nocturnal Animals is epic and intimate, mixing multiple narratives with beautiful visuals and a breathtaking score; a puzzle that you continue to piece together long after the credits have rolled.
A gorgeous, harrowing and occasionally bizarre meta-thriller that mixes multiple narrative threads together with beautiful visuals and a breathtaking score. Nocturnal Animals is entertaining and gripping from beginning to end; Tom Ford has crafted another hit with glittering performances from his stars.
CAST: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Armie Hammer, Michael Shannon
DIRECTOR: Tom Ford
WRITERS: Tom Ford (screenplay), Austin Wright (novel)
SYNOPSIS: An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.
First published on 2 September 2016 as part of One Room With A View’s coverage of the Venice Film Festival.