Review: Nocturnal Animals
Director: Tom Ford
By Kitty Turpin
Image credit © Universal Pictures 2016
What can’t Tom Ford do? Gaining fame as the creative director at luxury fashion brands Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, who would have known one of British GQ’s Best Dressed Men in Britain 2015 could write, produce and director the compelling thriller that is Nocturnal Animals.
Seven years after his directional/producer/writer debut with A Single Man (2009), Ford has taken a second shot at the big screen with another literature adaptation film this time Austin Wright’s 1993 novel Tony and Susan.
The opening sequence screams Twin Peaks, with its rich red velvet backdrop providing a stage for some very large naked women, wearing only a pair of gloves and boots, and sporting some Fourth of July paraphernalia, dancing in slow motion to a haunting instrumental. This scene, with its subjects that would typically be seen as unattractive, is absolutely mesmerising. Their stage presence demands your attention: these women, even in their naked and vulnerable state, their massive folds of skin moving as fluently as they do, are as sensual as a stripper from your local club. This scene sets the feel for Nocturnal Animals and is an indication of director Ford’s outstanding visual skill and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey’s ability to record it in reality. The camera pans and the audience is shown the full picture: these women are a part of a contemporary art exhibition with Susan (Amy Adams) at the centre of it all.
Susan is a well-dressed, stern faced art gallery owner living in a modest mansion that you would expect of such a position, with her unfaithful husband Walker (Armie Hammer). A mysterious package turns up sent by her ex husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) containing a manuscript for his latest novel entitled Nocturnal Animals. Susan, whilst her husband is away on business, retires to her bedroom to read the manuscript. She has not seen or heard from Edward in 20 years, but envisions him clearly as the main character of the book, Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal), and herself as his wife.
On their way to West Texas, Tony, and his family, are run off the road by a group of young rednecks (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Karl Glusman, Robert Aramayo) that steal their car with his wife and daughter trapped inside. The police are involved and find their bodies on a couch in the middle of the Texas scrub, their nude forms entwined with each other in an embrace: a beautiful yet haunting scene. Tony moves on with his life, but when “bad cop” detective Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon) contacts him a year later to identify some hooligans he’s picked up as the potential killers, Tony is set on getting his revenge.
The film is shot floating between both stories: Susan’s real life and her past experiences with Edward, and the story that she is experiencing through Edward’s manuscript. Once complaining about Edward’s writing being too personal, Susan finds herself lost within the fictional world he has created. Sleep deprived, the manuscript haunts her as memories of her past relationship rise to the surface.
Nocturnal Animals boasts an amazing and dedicated cast with standout performances by Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon and Amy Adams. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who plays the ringleader of the redneck gang Ray Marcus, also gives a compelling performance as the villain of the film. His portrayal of a man with a few screws loose who sees no wrong in his despicable actions is chillingly good.
Nocturnal Animals is eye candy. Ford’s impeccable style and artistic vision can be experienced in every scene of this film from the bleakness of Susan’s minimalistic contemporary art life to the warm richness of the American outback that Tony is stuck in.
Nocturnal Animals is thrilling journey from start to finish. I cannot wait to see Ford pursue more cinematic endeavours.
NOCTURNAL ANIMALS is in cinemas from November 10.
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