There are three parts to this story, based on Austin Wright's novel Tony and Susan. Adams stars as a chic art-gallery owner- Susan Morrow, who lives a cold and depressed life, filled with obscene wealth with her unfaithful husband Hutton (Armie Hammer). She receives a manuscript from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) and in her sorrow, surrounded by her swanky designer coated home, she begins to read. We are then transcended into her reading for the second part, which is a horrific story about Tony (also Gyllenhaal), a family man, who sets out on a trip with his wife (Isla Fisher) and daughter (Ellie Bamber) to West Texas. On a dark stretch of road, they are creeped out by a car of hillbillies who crash into them. The event becomes their worst nightmare, when they taunt, assault, and then kidnap the two women, leaving Tony lost and afraid.
There is, oddly enough, a strong theme of what masculinity means in Nocturnal Animals. The three men that abduct Tony's women are fearless men, led by Ray- played by an unrecognizable Aaron Taylor Johnson, in a career making role. They hold a threatening power over Tony that paralyses him. There is a difference between the man with kindness in his heart and the men who are void of any morality. The weaknesses that exist in Tony's character represent the flaws that led Susan to divorce Edward. The third part of the story are the flashbacks to their failed marriage. At first, he was the romantic and true love that Susan wanted. A conversation with her debutant mother (played by a big hair and scene stealing Laura Linney) represents the pulling forces against her needs. She dreamed of true love, but was pulled away by the stability of wealth that she sadly falls back into. She will live with an intense regret.
As Susan continues to read, the story becomes darker. Shannon is fantastic as the sheriff in charge of finding the wife and daughter. He has a sharp tongue, a sly sense of humor, and is dying from lung cancer. He is a fearless angel of death, in a story that will haunt Susan for the past she left behind and the life she chose above love. Gyllenhaal's split performances are impeccable, as he goes from a clean shaved, lovelorn good ol' boy to a man who has lost everything. Awards are worthy for multiple categories.
Nocturnal Animals is grand success from Tom Ford. The director made A Single Man back in 2009, but I hope he doesn’t make it a habit to take 7 years off between each film. Everything from the costumes, the sets, the décor, and a dramatic ending that left me both heartbroken and in awe. It will leave some audience members frustrated, but it is the difficult endings that stick with you. They keep you up at night. Nocturnal Animals is a devilishly delicious movie.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: NOCTURNAL ANIMALS
STARRING: AMY ADAMS; JAKE GYLLENHAAL; MICHAEL SHANNON; ARMIE HAMMER
DIRECTED BY: TOM FORD
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
Nocturnal Animals is as close you can get to a modern Shakespearean tragedy. In the second film from director/fashion designer Tom Ford, you notice that this is a man who is multitalented and his movies have an aesthetic that would have been perfect for the golden age of Hollywood. There is something so va va voom about everything he shoots. It helps to work with an outstanding cast of actors including Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Michael Shannon, in what I would call one of the most fascinating movies for 2016. Nocturnal Animals is a harsh, dark tale, where there are no such things as a happy ending.