With an opening that has to be one of the most unforgettable movie experiences that you’ll ever see, writer/director Tom Ford (A Single Man) has created a dark, complex and thought-provoking drama, that transcends genres in a stylishly original fashion, while touching on some hard-hitting issues that are highly relevant in today’s image and success-obsessed society.
Amy Adams (The Master) stars as an accomplished artist, who has just received a book manuscript in the post from her ex-husband, Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko), who is an aspiring novelist. With a dedication to her at the beginning, Adam’s character immediately starts to read the story, leading the film into a twisting tale that deftly moves between flashbacks of her life with Gyllenhaal, her present marriage to Armie Hammer (The Social Network) and a representation of the manuscript as she reads it. In this, Gyllenhaal also plays the part of a man travelling for a vacation on an all-night drive with his wife, Isla Fisher (The Wedding Crashers) and daughter, who are then subjected to a terrifying ordeal at the hands of local thug, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and his crew on an outback road. As the film draws to a close, a devastating parallel is drawn between the three stories, resulting in Adam’s character having to question the choices she has made in her relationship with Gyllenhaal’s character.
Nocturnal Animals oozes style and class in how it is shot and constructed and is a masterclass in acting, but its focus on subjects that lurk in the grotesque and hollow side of modern culture, gives the film a constantly dark and unsettling mood. There are some troubling scenes that exude a level of helplessness that I’ve never seen captured so effectively; so much so that I know some people will have a serious dislike for the film as the tension racks up. But Ford hasn’t resorted to using a huge amount violence, as much of it is psychological or stylistically portrayed, giving an eeriness that will trouble the most hardened of film goers. The premise of Nocturnal Animals delves into disturbing areas of the human psyche, by tapping into themes of love, hate, betrayal, forgiveness and cowardice, with effects that will linger long after you leave the theatre.
Ford’s second film should establish him as a serious player in Hollywood, as he has brought together an outstandingly talented cast – which includes the great Michael Shannon in an exceptional co-starring role as a local cop – and crafted a true original that exudes ingenuity in story construction and cinematography, while intelligently pushing a sinister undertone on issues that we have all encountered. Highly recommended. Kev Lovski