Even after the film ended, it took a moment before I could ease away from the edge of my seat and process what I’d just watched. Such was the intensity of this haunting thriller.
Nocturnal Animals unravels when Susan Marrow (Adams), who appears to be going through a mid-life crisis, receives the manuscript of a violent, yet intriguing novel from her ex-husband, author Edward Sheffield (Gyllenhaal).
The book follows father and husband, Tony Hastings (also played by Gyllenhaal), as his emotionally fragile character tries to avenge the brutal and senseless murder of his wife and daughter.
Throughout the chilling ordeal that the book puts her through, Susan must also navigate the difficulties of her own troubled marriage.
Despite the opulence she’s surrounded by as a wealthy art gallery owner, Susan grows increasingly disinterested and detached as she becomes engrossed in the book.
She has flashbacks of her time with Edward, which gradually reveal how she mistreated him during their brief marriage. As she continues to revisit the circumstances behind their separation, she grows more and more disillusioned by her deteriorating life.
When disturbing signs start to emerge around her, such as a mysterious painting on the wall of her office passageway that reads “Revenge”, you can’t help but suspect that Edward is plotting something.
At the same time, you’re hopeful of a positive ending – one where the two former lovers reunite and live happily ever after. After all, Edward is a good guy who truly loves Susan, right?
Nocturnal Animals was written and directed by famous fashion designer Tom Ford, who made his directorial debut with 2009’s A Single Man.
Like his fashion, Nocturnal Animals carries a distinctive visual appeal and attempts to push the boundaries. He does not meet your expectations and almost makes a point of trying to lead you astray, which is what you essentially want from a film built around suspense. It’s meant to be unpredictable, daring, gruesome, disturbing – and it’s all of that.
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2016 Venice International Film Festival, Nocturnal Animals works because it doesn’t allow you to breathe.
Tony’s quest for revenge in the novel is heartbreaking. He stops at nothing in trying to make the perpetrators pay for what they did to him, perhaps mirroring his real-life character, Edward. Powerless against the evil inflicted on him and his family, Tony shares Edward’s purity and fragility, and both seem to share a common purpose.
The fact that the book is dedicated to Susan adds to the suspicion that it’s more than just a novel, and that there’s a bigger purpose behind it all.
In the end, you’re left clutching at straws, with many of the film’s questions still unanswered.
Amy Adams as Susan Morrow, a wealthy art gallery owner who receives a manuscript from her ex-husband that causes her to revisit the past.
DIRECTOR: Tom Ford
CAST: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal
Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Sheen
RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes
CLASSIFICATION: 16 LV