Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Do you ever feel your life has turned into something you never intended?

In Tom Ford’s second venture into the world of the silver screen, Susan Morrow (played by the fabulous Amy Adams) is a art gallery owner in LA. Morrow has a tumultuous marriage but is trudging through nonetheless, we see her living in her lavish mansion and leading a sumptuous lifestyle. Morrow receives a manuscript of a violent thriller set in the West written by her ex-husband, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal).

The thriller manuscript is titled Nocturnal Animals. It’s about a guy and his family who were on a road trip but got jumped by a bunch of drunkards led by Ray Marcus (Aaron Tyler-Johnson). They, the drunk bandits, kidnap and separate the family: they rape and kill the daughter and wife, get rid of the husband somewhere in the desert, and run away. Edward (the husband) goes crazy. He reports the case to the police and works closely with Bobby Andes (awesomely played by Michael Shannon). Sheffield and Andes try to figure out what happened to Sheffield’s family and on the way encounter legal and bureaucratic hurdles which lead them to act in an unconventional way.

Morrow is terrified by the story and starts seeing metaphoric parallels to her real life and her relationship with Edward. Eventually we sense that the manuscript is an implicit threat or cathartic revenge.

 Susan, enjoy the absurdity of our world. It’s a lot less painful. Believe me, our world is a lot less painful than the real world.

Fabulous film. Absolutely fabulous. So intense and dark. It’s the type of movie that craws under your skin and you never get a cathartic release at the end. I love the way the story is framed and the switching between the events of the manuscript and those of the movie. It was a risky move as you could’ve easily botched it but the movie manages to skillfully move between the movie and the manuscript.

It’s meta on so many levels as it is subtly and beautifully metaphoric. The events intertwine and the symbolism creeps on you and then slaps you in the face. I can’t really describe it, which is a failing on my side but it also highlights the genius of the film because you can’t really pin down how it makes you feel. I was literally on the edge of my seat for long times throughout. The cinematography adds to that evasive intensity, you get dark shots of inside the mansion and then wide shots of the desert. This is juxtaposed to scenes of Morrow reading the manuscript intensely and that mimics the viewers experience but then you get real fear in the face of Sheffield  as he is frantically searching for his family. The way the camera zooms into their faces and then out away, it’s just really great. The camera angles are complemented by the music. It’s not a memorable score, but it’s one that makes your skin crawl and intensifies every single scene.

The acting was fantastic. I might be biased because I absolutely adore Amy Adams, but I think we can all agree that she’s an awesome and incredibly talented. There’s something about her face, she can express a distinct type of sorrow and pain that slams into you like a train. She’s just amazing. Jake Gyllenhaal was pretty good too. I loved the fact that he challenges gender expectations by being emotional, which he does pretty damn well-especially confusion and frantic fear. But one of the biggest stars in this movie was Michael Shannon, his character was eery, and just so real. It was one hell of a performance.

I can’t remember exactly where I read/heard this but this year has been the year of not-saying much in movies where what is left unsaid is greater and more profound than the dialogue. And you can definitely see that in this movie and in Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight as well. At first I didn’t necessarily like this tell_me_loki

But eventually the English major in me prevailed and I started appreciating reading between the lines. There are many instances of complete and utter silence in the movie and just long slow shots of people staring at each other (which, according to my friend, is such a Tom Ford move) but I loved it because not only does it build anticipation but it makes makes the scene more profound.

The only problem with this film is nudity. It starts with a full shot of old overweight naked women…with close-ups. Now I understand that it’s an appreciation of the human body and a type of art and blah blah, and I’m not here to police anyone or anything, I personally felt uncomfortable with that scene. I understand the purpose of it, it reflected the eccentric art and lifestyle of Adams’ character but that didn’t make it any less uncomfortable.

Anyway, it’s a great movie, actually one of the best movies I watched in 2016. Score: 5/5

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One Response to Nocturnal Animals (2016)

  1. Dan O. says:

    Definitely a very interesting flick for sure. Nice review.

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