| An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.
After an impressive debut with ‘A Single Man’ (2009), Tom Ford’s new movie titled ‘Nocturnal Animals’ is an impressive dark story, with impacting yet troubled characters and tour de force performances by the lead actors. Though style is an attribute this story does well and it has moments of being a heavily immersive film noir that’s reminiscent to a Hitchcockian noir thriller. With its clever and Bernard Herrmann inspired music style by composer Abel Korzeniowski (which might be my favourite score of the year so far), this has a ton of style. It’s fair to say that the seven years worth of waiting was worth it. While it’s hard to adequately describe the opening scene of this movie, It was quite…unexpected. I’ll leave it at that, you’ll know when you see it.
I would like to heap as much praise as possible on the fashion in which Tom Ford decides to tell the bulk of the story. The sort of story within a story that he creates, using the source material from Austin Wright, provides insight into the perspectives and mindsets of the characters that I don’t think would have come across as well if the film had a more traditional narrative. In many ways the film follows conventional narrative devices, and that’s sort of the point.
Tom Ford also gives proof of himself as a visual storyteller. It is incredibly subtle, not hitting you over the head with its significance, it just stays in the background until the end when you realize what just happened and immediately go back with your head to the rest of the film and realize what it was doing to you subconsciously. The devil’s in the details, and there are certain aspects of the story within the story which reveals not only what happens to the characters, but the specific meaning that certain events had to them and how they came to perceive their own experience.
“When someone loves you, you have to be careful with it”
Much like the art that Amy Adams’ character peddles, this is a piece of junk culture with an unapologetic pulp filling, that’s masterfully and stylishly formed by Ford and expertly framed by brilliant cinematographer Seamus McGarvey (Atonement, Godzilla). A cinematographer that has been overlooked a little too much in my opinion, having always been one of my favorites. His photography always leaves me aghast, he manages to paint frames of immense beauty and uses colors to great effect into building the ambient of the story. He shoots night time sequences with a staggering detail and beautiful blacks, basically his photography just has a real weight to it and a grit that helps incredibly in making the picture hit the audience as it should.
Gyllenhaal continues his extraordinary stretches of virtuosity in front of the camera, unleashes his show-stopping elemental intensity in his dual roles, especially in Tony, a character poles apart from his strapping figure, a meek sheep unfairly punished for his nature, it is a heartbreaking display of bravura. By contrast, Adams epitomizes a more detached persona nestled in her privileged niche, outlines a more subdued inner journey aptly paralleling Tony’s trials and tribulations, and eventually it would strike a more resonant chord with viewers. Shannon, stands out in his effortless turn as a Texan cop equipped with irresistible tics, brazenly unperturbed in his relentless hunt. He is a serious candidate for the Best Supporting category and was my favourite character of the movie. Taylor-Johnson, whose stardom hardly takes off after his breakthrough in ‘Kick-Ass’ (2010), has been further pigeonholed in extremely unsympathetic roles notwithstanding, finally finds a knack to lighten the screen with his repugnant cockiness to a fault.
And while I loved Nocturnal Animals, it isn’t without its flaws. Most of these issues are understandable given the ambition of the film and how it jumps between stories, but Tom Ford’s direction, while great, can be a bit much at times. I see myself as having a rather high tolerance for less conventional and more bizarre direction, but some choices here weren’t as effective as I would have liked. Namely, the more horrific scenes in the film didn’t have as much of an effect as they should have had. And there was one scene wherein the presentation of the story breaks the sort of consistent pattern it sets without really being justified. I don’t really mean that there was a subversion of expectation which creates a new direction in the story which I didn’t expect, that wouldn’t really be a problem in and of itself. I mean to say that there was a brief moment in one scene which was jarring in its inconsistency with the rest of the story, and which made me think that the sort of effect that it achieved could have been accomplished in a way which was more organic to the nature of the story (without giving away anything specific, I’m referring to a specific jump scare).
‘Nocturnal Animals’ is a rich movie, it opens itself to many questions and even if it might not give everybody the emotional pay off they wish they had (I thought it was a great pay off), its mesmerizing images will be stuck in your head for days to come, with your thoughts wondering on every little detail to figure out what actually went down.
‘Nocturnal Animals’ gets an 8.7/10.
Shot on 35's rating sheet: 9.5 – 10.0: Excellent! 8.5 – 9.5: Fantastic, but with minor flaws 7.5 – 8.5: Great, but with issues 6.5 – 7.5: Okay, but with major issues 5.5 – 6.5: Had potential, but falls flat hard. 4.5 – 5.5: Disaster!