Nocturnal Animals is directed by Tom Ford and this is his second feature film after 2009’s A Single Man starring Colin Firth which I never got around to checking out. After seeing this film, I can confidently say that Ford has made a unique, riveting and beautifully told movie for the ages. Amy Adams plays Susan who is an art gallery owner who is married to a wealthy business man played by Armie Hammer. He travels a lot and seems emotionally unavailable leaving Susan to reminisce on her past relationship in her lonely elegant house. At the beginning of the film, she receives a manuscript from her ex husband titled Nocturnal Animals and dedicated to her. The author is played by none other than Jake Gyllenhaal (Edward) and we see flashbacks of their romance blossoming and how it turned sour. As Susan begins to read the manuscript, we see the novel come to life and it provides another dimension to the film as you are completely transported to the gritty and dark landscape of West Texas which is a contrast to the modern tale of the sad and glamorous in Los Angeles.
The novel is centered around a family’s road rage encounter with these rednecks led by Aaron-Taylor Johnson who is brilliant as this vile character; it rivals the road rage encounter from the Argentinian gem Wild Tales, but the story is uncompromising, dark and brutal. We see Susan reading this novel most of the movie so Amy Adams has a difficult role as she has to emote and show a vulnerable side that is different from the cold and burdened Susan that we first meet. The book is taking a toll on her and it is difficult to watch the story that is unfolding, the father in the book is also played by Jake Gyllenhaal who also plays the ex husband/ author and that is how Susan pictures this character in the book. So she has a personal attachment to the story and it forces her to examine her relationship with Edward and the decisions that haunt her. Michael Shannon plays the western detective in the book, Bobby, and he is just a great character to see on screen and is played brilliantly by Michael.
The film is balancing three storylines and manages to tie them together beautifully; Tom Ford does a great job directing this. Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal are both excellent, but are upstaged by Shannon and Taylor Johnson archetypal fictional roles. The movie is gorgeously shot and is as stylish as you’d expect from a Tom Ford film; its only flaw is that the story within the story is far too interesting compared to the main story being told. This is still a great movie that meshes melodrama with a dark western irresistibly. (9.5/10)