It’s hard to put into words the way I felt about Nocturnal Animals. On one hand, this is one of the creepiest, most disturbing films I have ever seen. On the other hand, it was so different that I actually liked it. Maybe I’m just a little oversensitive, but the suspense of every scene made me want to rip my skin off. The only conclusion I can draw is that writer/director Tom Ford knows how to make an emotionally confusing movie.
Since I don’t know where else to start with this one, I’ll just start from the top. From the opening scene, I knew Nocturnal Animals was going to be extremely weird. I think the opening title sequence is the most awkward and unnecessary thing that I have ever seen. Due to the extreme lack of censorship, I will not describe in detail the art exhibit that Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) was displaying. There are no words to describe how utterly unnecessary this scene was, and it didn’t have anything to do with the rest of the film.
After the opening scene, the film gets into its wacky groove when Susan’s ex-husband, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal), leaves a copy of his newest novel’s manuscript on her front porch. The novel serves as a twisted ode to their two decade departed relationship and the cruel way that it ended. The film starts to depict three separate timelines: Susan and Edward’s past relationship, Susan’s present, and a manifestation of the novel as Susan reads it. The film inside the film is actually very good. The novel’s apparent revenge plot is thick, juicy, and extremely suspenseful.
The novel itself is a very creepy story based on a version of Edward and Susan, Tony and Laura (who is now played by Isla Fisher to help differentiate between the stories). The story is a lens for how Edward felt following his falling out with Susan, but it’s much more twisted in this personification. Tony is faced with teaming up with cop Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon) to hunt down the perps that raped and murdered his wife and daughter. The novel forces Susan to contemplate her past with Edward and her present situation with cheating husband Hutton (Armie Hammer).
Nocturnal Animals shines in the great acting performances of Gyllenhaal, Shannon, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who plays perp Ray. They all do a fantastic job of portraying nutty characters and I was happy to see that Taylor-Johnson received a Golden Globe nomination for this role. I also liked that for an incredibly suspenseful film, I was still able to worry about what would happen next without the suspense ever getting old. It’s a very, very weird film, yet it somehow is still enjoyable and keeps you interested in the action of the novel.
Even after trying to put my thoughts into a review, I’m still not sure how to fully sort out my true feelings on this film. It’s one of those movies that you can dislike and love at the same time, if that makes any sense. Nocturnal Animals is not a standard film by any means. It’s a crazy revenge story that made my skin crawl with anticipation and made me feel conflicted about what the film was trying to say.
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