Be prepared for some serious head scratching. This film follows two dangerous stories interlinked with deadly motives. Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is a married art gallery owner with a failing marriage and an unfulfilling job. Each night she swallows another pill to help her sleep. Despite all her earthly comforts: the good job, respect from co-workers, and designer house, she walks around like a ghost. But it wasn’t always this way. She was married before. He was Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal) a failing writer that couldn’t afford to keep the relationship financially stable.
Then one day, mail arrives at Susan’s house. It’s a novel manuscript from Edward who wanted her to read it before anyone else. Longing for an escape Susan finds herself turning the pages, becoming immersed but something is wrong. The main characters in the novel are based on Susan and Edward and there would-be daughter. The novel gets graphic quickly, turning into a bloody revenge story.
Both stories are captured in the film with style; both sides thoroughly convincing and yet at the same time parallel. In the novel, scenes of West Texas and the violent plot are contrasted with Susan going about her daily life looking chic, yet fragile.
This is a film that puts a fresh twist on a traditional story line with an array of symbolism, hidden meanings and troubling moral questions. Without a doubt, it will leave you feeling some depth of human emotion, and that something will be open to interpretation like a Mark Rothko painting. Tom Ford is a master at making the audience think for themselves, which I think, is great cinema when executed well which makes Nocturnal Animals like the sharpened steel of Albert Pierrepoint’s axe.
The acting is on point, with Jake Gyllenhaal adding another notch to his wall of great performances. Also noteworthy was Michael Shannon who plays a Texan lawman that loves to see proper justice. Michael gives the character lots of flavours, even stealing a few scenes. But of course, its the stunning visuals that set this film apart. The visuals are exactly what one can expect from a world-renown fashion designer; splendid from start to finish and more. Ford has definitely got a keen eye for picturesque scenes. Underneath all of these elements and tying it together is the score, which is quite forgettable, but in a good way that allows the action to happen, undisturbed by unnecessarily noises and instruments that we see all too common in thrillers. In this instance, it works well.
With that winning combination, it’s easy to see why it has already been nominated for some big awards. It could have gone disastrously wrong, instead, it has become a unique marvel, that does something never done before. Not only does it do it right, hitting all the notes with confident fingers, but it does it in a way that places substance first and style after. Both of which this film has plenty of. I can see this becoming a hidden gem in the future.
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