Nocturnal Animals

As the film opens, Susan (Amy Adams) feels guilty for not being happy, despite having ‘everything’ – Armie Hammer plays her current husband, but apparently they were maybe never truly supposed to be together.

A successful art gallery owner, Susan’s home is perfectly styled, filled with lacquered objets, 18nocturnal1-master768-v2beautiful things, much like herself, impeccably dressed, heavily made up. Her “bare” (movie bare, of course) face comes as a shock when she curls into bed to read a manuscript that has arrived that earlier that day, a surprise from the ex-husband she hasn’t heard from in 20 years.

She’s immediately engrossed in the story, which we see recreated as a movie within a movie. Jake Gyllenhaal and Isla Fisher play two halves of a couple travelling down a remote road at night. Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays a sinister man threatening them. It’s immediately tense. Disturbing. Distraught, Susan slams the book shut.

But that’s not the end, is it? No, she keeps going. And things get darker, and trickier. Director Tom Ford pulls a nasty trick on us: in casting Isla Fisher, he is intentionally making her a very easy substitute for Amy Adams (Isla Fisher once sent Christmas cards to friends and family with Amy Adams photo-shopped in her place, and no one noticed). But we’re not the only ones to notice the similarities: Susan starts to feel a little unsettled too.

This is only Tom Ford’s second film; I was blown away by his first effort, A Single Man. He has a distinctive style, he’s incredibly visual, but the story in A Single Man held up. More than that: it crawled right into my soul and crushed it, just a tiny bit. Colin Firth was robbed when he didn’t maxresdefault-6win an Oscar for it (well, he lost to Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart, and that was certainly deserved as well; luckily Firth one the very next year for The King’s Speech). You may know that Tom Ford is a fashion designer, but that’s clearly not the only trick up his sleeve. His direction is not a gimmick (it likely helps that he leaves the costuming to someone else, and that no Tom Ford suits appear in the film). Maybe it’s little more style than substance, but it’s not without substance, or merit, or worth. Nocturnal Animals is dark and moody and horrible. It is sometimes graphic, and psychologically tortured, and stunning.

It’s the kind of movie that will haunt you for days. There are lots of performances worth talking about: Amy Adams, and the sadness she can convey in her downturned eyes; Jake Gyllenhaal’s fire, and his anguish. Aaron Taylor-Johnson was nominated for a Golden Globe for his supporting skeevy work here, but I think it’s Michael Shannon who maybe deserved the nomination, mustache and all. Can this man do any wrong? Oh wait

Most people bill Nocturnal Animals as a work of revenge, but I feel it’s more about regret. I suppose your interpretation may rest on the ending, which is intentionally vague, but I believe an indictment on Susan’s character. What did you think?

 

 

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31 thoughts on “Nocturnal Animals

  1. Often Off Topic

    Yes! Love this review, and this movie, too. For me it’s what movies are all about, the discussions afterwards, interpretations, and allowing it to play on your mind for so long. I’ll never forgive this movie for that jump scare, though!

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  2. mymoviereality

    I checked out this movie a while back and boy were there some excellent visuals and fantastic performances. I agree with your idea that this a movie about regret. When you look back and realize what certain aspects of the story represent, you get that strong sense of regret and grief.

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  3. BroadBlogs

    Sounds like Tom Ford is making a successful transition to movie producer. More so than Ted Turner who once said, “The easiest way to become a millionaire is to start out a billionaire and then go into the movie business.”

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  4. Birgit

    I’d love to see this film and really believe Amy Adams and Isla Fisher were twins separated at birth because they even sound similar. I saw A Single Man and thought it was brilliant and Colin Firth deserved the Oscar over Jeff Bridges that year for that role.

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  5. Harlon

    I agree with you – this film grew on me, and I appreciated more after i saw it. I think you nailed it when you said it is a film about regret rather than revenge. I like the way you think! Cheers, Harlon

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  6. Matt

    I think it was definitely an indictment of Amy Adams’ character, a pretty unfair one at that. At the TIFF Q7A, Tom Ford explained the ending by confirming that this was Jake’s plan all along- to write a book that would make her fall back in love with him so he could stand her up. Because he’s “over” her.

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    1. Jay Post author

      I don’t think it’s unfair at all. She IS this vacuous person, dazzled by pretty and\or successful things. She left Jake because she thought he was a loser, and went to Armie because he was a better stepping stone, but now that he’s not, she’s ready to leave again – possibly back to Jake since apparently he’s worthy and about to be a famous novelist.

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  7. vinnieh

    I found myself utterly spellbound by this movie. Tom Ford has oodles of style and drive and his cast was phenomenal. Amy Adams is one of my favourite actresses, never seen her give a bad performance.

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    1. Jay Post author

      It’s true, she’s become a real heavy weight. I remember her from Catch Me If You Can, which was in 2002, but I didn’t truly notice her until 2008’s Doubt. She’s been pretty consistent ever since.

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  8. The Vern

    I enjoyed A Single Man, but could not fully love this flick. I think the acting is good, with Aaron Taylor Johnson stealing the show, but the rest of it felt flat. It it was about regret, Amys character never reflected it. If it was about Revenge,I never say Jake’s character embrace any of it either. Plus what did the opening titles have to do with this movie at all. It’s shown once and than never again

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  9. indiefan20

    When I watched the trailer for this movie it cracked me up because Amy Adams’ character reading an ex’s book and seeing it as a thinly veiled threat reminded me of a novella I had just written about a mildly developmentally disabled young man and his nutcase meth head mom that I had- *SURPRISE*- dedicated to my own mother. Luckily she understood why I had chosen to dedicate the book to her and did not see it as an act of passive aggression or a threat. All joking aside, this movie looks really good and I can’t wait to see it. I didn’t know that about Ilsa Fisher; that’s actually really funny.

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  10. therudereview

    I loved this movie. Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor Johnson stole the flick from me, and they had to act in the same movie as Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal (who were both good as well). The ending was perfect.

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