Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Nocturnal Animals - 2016 film review

Nocturnal Animals is a recent thriller movie written and directed by Tom Ford which has won plaudits in many quarters. It stars Amy Adams as Susan Morrow, a rich art gallery owner based in L.A., and Jake Gyllenhal as her ex-husband Edward Sheffield. So - a top-notch cast.

And the premise is interesting, too. Amy has married a second time, and her husband is handsome but untrustworthy. She seems rather discontented with her glamorous lifestyle, and is intrigued when a parcel arrives for her unexpectedly. No, it doesn't contain poisoned chocolates, but rather their modern day equivalent (as in that interesting novel Disclaimer, for instance) - the manuscript of an extremely disturbing novel. It seems to have been written by her ex, Edward.

She starts to read the book, and we are plunged into a grim story about a man (also played by Gyllenhal) who is driving with his wife and teenage daughter in a remote part of Texas one evening, when their trip is rudely interrupted by an encounter with a menacing trio of trouble-makers who eventually run them off the road. It's quite clear that Bad Things are going to happen.

The film shifts back and forth between the story and Susan's life. This kind of structure is one I find very interesting. And yet. Despite the slickness of the film, I had reservations about it. They began with the opening scene, set at Susan's gallery, where obese naked women are dancing. This felt  a bit gratuitous to me, and some other reviewers seem to feel the same way. I also felt that the ending, which many others like, had a "so-what?" quality about it. Overall, despite the film's strengths, I was slightly disappointed. Nocturnal Animals seemed to me like a film that is too clever for its own good. 


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I did not know about this film. Jake Gyllenhal is a fine actor and does well in serious roles.

Martin Edwards said...

He is indeed, Prashant

J F Norris said...

I felt exactly the same as you about this, Martin. Another movie by fashion designer Tom Ford that is all about style and production design at the expense of real dramatic substance. But I liked Gyllenhaal as I always do and Shannon never ceases to fascinate me. But Ford's movies are so distancing and cold. I rarely feel anything when watching them. He needs to go back to his clothes and forget about making movies. (BTW, it's Michael Shannon, an American, in this movie and not the Brit actor Michael Sheen. Similar names but so completely different as actors.)

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, John, not least for the correction!