Susan, a wealthy art gallery owner (Amy Adams) is living a plush life in LA with her husband (Armie Hammer). As the marriage seems to be crumbling behind the facade of fortune, Susan unexpectedly receives a manuscript from her first husband, Edward (Jake Gyllanhaal). As she reads the novel, she becomes so engrossed that it begins to effect her in ways she never expected, and question how her life has gone.
Fashion designer Tom Ford made a big splash in Hollywood with his first film, A Single Man (2014). He returns with this multi-layered drama that weaves a story within a story seamlessly, showing how our past can influence our present, and how not only our lives can inform our work, but our work can effect our life in return.
The story of the novel, which happens within the film as Susan reads, features Tony Hastings (also played by Gyllanhaal) a man traveling across country with his wife and daughter, who gets ambushed on a deserted patch of road at night buy some…hooligans (I feel like I’m 80 years old using that word.) Tony’s wife (Isla Fisher) and daughter end up being abducted, with Tony left to try and find them with the help of a detective, played by Michael Shannon.
The acting in this film is pitch perfect. Everyone brings their best to their roles, especially Gyllanhaal. He plays both of his parts incredibly, not only as two distinct characters, but also slipping in subleties from Edward into Tony (As Tony is Susan partially projecting Edward into the role as she reads).
Adams begins her role as quite a shallow, superficial person, but as the film progresses we start to see more of how she became this way and the shell of her former self she has become. There are times where we both feel for her and hate her, and we see that struggle of self loathing occasionally pop up inside her.
Aaron Taylor- Johnson is also another stand out as the kidnapper Tony’s family bumps into on the road. He is more menacing than many characters on screen this year.
Rounding out the cast includes Armie Hammer and Isla Fisher, who both are good, but have so little screen time they don’t really get to shine. And of course there is Michael Shannon, who is his usual Michael Shannon self…he’s incredible.
There are moments where you can tell a fashion designer directed this film. There is just something about the aesthetics and cinematography, shots looking beautiful and straight out of a magazine. It is incredibly gorgeous to look at, but that’s not all. The film is expertly paced and does a great job of juggling two stories, one of which has flashbacks and time jumps, without confusing the viewer.
Nocturnal Animals is a meticulously crafted film by a fairly new filmmaker. He not only directs but also adapts the story for screen in a way that produces a heart wrenching and tense picture that will make you think about your own life, the choices you’ve made, and if they were the correct ones.
Verdict: Must See
James just wants to give everyone a heads up that this movie opens with a 2-3 minute opening credit montage that is just a very obese woman dancing naked. Not saying that’s good or bad. That might even be your thing (thatsmyfetish.gif).
He’s just putting that out there if you are planning a good old fashioned family movie night.