Review: Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Rating: ★★★★½

  • Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
  • Metascore: 67/100
  • IMDb: 7.5

First off, please, for the love of all that is holy, skip the first 4:33. Honestly, the most horrific opening credits I have seen to this day, just know it’s Susan Morrow’s (Amy Adams) art show. Maybe my love of post-modern art is not quite mature enough, but looking at obese, nude women is not my cup of tea.

On that note, this film does not get enough credit. Many reviews claim Tom Ford is an amateur filmmaker who purposefully sacrifices content for style. UNTRUE. Although artful, the meat of the plot is consistent and compelling. I will say, the plot summary is pretty misleading itself. The film is set up to run as a crime drama/thriller, putting a woman in danger as mysterious instances seem to come to light in her life. But, before we look at the misconceptions, let’s outline exactly what you will be jumping into.

Susan Morrow, an art curator for a big city museum, is married to some pretty boy, rich guy (Armie Hammer — no surprise), and doubts her abilities as an artist with no support from him. The film continues to bring the viewer back to her past, a past relationship with Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) — a sensitive, aspiring author who continually supports Susan’s hopes of becoming an artist, which is against the wishes of her bourgeoisie parents. In her present life, Susan receives a draft of Edwards latest novel: Nocturnal Animals. The timeline begins to shift from present to the past to a live-action take on the novel’s events. Confusing at first, but the viewer is able to sense the rhythm of the film early on.

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The goal of viewing this film is to find the parallels between the novel and Susan’s own life. My fiancée and I noticed small similarities while watching and even days after we finished it. That’s the genius of this film! The smallest detail has the potential of being reflected in the other story. And, of course, the plot thickens and leaves you gripped throughout.

Now, for the style. When a film has cinematography that leaves me saying, “Love that shot,” multiple times, it has already partially succeeded in my book. Style is the director and cinematographer’s personal watermark on a film, bringing more personality and emotion to the artform. But, without substance, the style has no way of standing alone. Nocturnal Animals checks both boxes seamlessly. The dark, gritty visuals do a fantastic job of mirroring the characters both mentally and physically. Although, some of the credit can be given to the vast, empty beauty of the Mojave Desert.

As far as awards are concerned, Michael Shannon — the lawman detective in the film — scored an Oscar nod, receiving the nomination for Best Supporting Actor from the Academy. Although his performance was noteworthy, Shannon had some stiff competition including Mahersela Ali for Moonlight and Jeff Bridges for Hell or High Water; Ali taking home the coveted statuette.

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My first, and certainly not last, viewing of Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals was quite the breath of fresh air cinematically. Unfortunately, I was unable to experience it during it’s Oscar run, but viewing it in film’s summer dry season, I was pleased with it’s notable style and substance. If you’re on the lookout for a nice crime-thriller — and, like my fiancée, a new fear of dark highways — don’t hesitate to give Ford a chance. He’s sure to have you mulling it over for days to come.

Happy watching,

– Connelly 6/5/17 ♞

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