Film Review – Nocturnal Animals

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It’s a great week to be an Amy Adams fan if you live near an Australian cinema.

With the simultaneous release of both Arrival and Nocturnal Animals on Thursday November 10th, 2016, audiences, can, if they choose to do so, spend four hours in the talented redhead’s company.

I did make this choice and saw the highly anticipated new film from designer Tom Ford, based on the book Tony and Susan by Austin Wright. (Before going on to watch Arrival for a second time on a bigger screen than first time around).

Academy Award nominee Amy Adams stars as Susan Morrow in writer/director Tom Ford’s romantic thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features
Academy Award nominee Amy Adams stars as Susan Morrow in writer/director Tom Ford’s romantic thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, a Focus Features release.
Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features

Nocturnal Animals tells three intertwining stories.

Firstly we see Adams as Susan Morrow, an affluent but unhappy art gallery owner experiencing relationship difficulties with her current partner and the opening scenes explore their general incompataility and malais in their contemporary life.

Next we get a sense of Susan’s first husband Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal) whom she left years earlier in a “brutal” way.

Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal portrays Tony Hastings in writer/director Tom Ford’s romantic thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features
Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal portrays Tony Hastings in writer/director Tom Ford’s romantic thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, a Focus Features release.
Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features

When they parted he was struggling to write his first novel, and now, many years later Edward has accomplished this task and he delivers a manuscript to her home, dedicated to Susan. When she attempts to open the package containing the pages she gets a paper cut from the wrapping, drawing blood.

Director Tom Ford’s infuses the colour of blood red throughout the film, on fabrics and furnishings to alert us to episodes of violence that are about to appear onscreen.

4100_D007_00692_R (l-r) Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal portrays Tony Hastings, Robert Aramayo as Turk, Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ray Marcus and Ellie Bamber as India Hastings in writer/director Tom Ford’s romantic thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features
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(l-r) Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal portrays Tony Hastings, Robert Aramayo as Turk, Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ray Marcus and Ellie Bamber as India Hastings in writer/director Tom Ford’s romantic thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, a Focus Features release.
Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features

Susan cannot put down the manuscript and, as she reads it, the story contained within the pages, comprising the second narrative strand of the film, unfolds onscreen.

Tony (Gyllenhaal), his wife Laura (Isla Fisher) and their daughter India Hastings (Ellie Bamber) are driving through West Texas late at night on a deserted highway. The family encounter a carload of young men, there is an accident involving both party’s cars necessitating Tony going to the police to report the incident.

(l-r.) Academy Award nominees Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon star as Tony Hastings and Bobby Andes and Karl Glusman stars as Lou in writer/director Tom Ford’s romantic thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features
(l-r.) Academy Award nominees Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon star as Tony Hastings and Bobby Andes and Karl Glusman stars as Lou in writer/director Tom Ford’s romantic thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, a Focus Features release.
Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features

He meets Detective Bobby Andes ((Michael Shannon) who endeavours to help him track down the young men and his now missing wife and daughter.

The narrative within the manuscript is an allegory for Susan and Edward’s marriage, and we see the third thread of the film as flashbacks to the actual events of their relationship.

Nocturnal Animals reminded me of both seasons of True Detective and some elements of Making a Murderer, with Det. Andes quick to locate potential suspects and prosecute them with extreme prejudice.

The film is on a knife edge within the first few minutes and Tom Ford delivers his fair share of harrowing scenes that I could not look away from, despite flinching at some of the more grisly aspects of the case.

The film draws comparisons with the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men and whether or not Nocturnal Animals can find itself in contention for an Academy Award for Best Picture remains to be seen. I certainly hope so.

It certainly kept me transfixed and I’ve been recommending it to all and sundry.

I cannot wait to watch it again.

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