The new movie from fashion designer-cum-director Tom Ford, ‘Nocturnal Animals,’ is a weirdly compelling art-house gem which defies convention and description. Not having seen his directorial debut from 2009, the critically acclaimed ‘A Single Man,’ I probably wouldn’t even have sought out his latest release if not for the fact that a friend mentioned it to me. Thanks, Penny!
The narrative structure of ‘Nocturnal Animals’ involves two parallel stories. One is set in the present and follows art gallery owner Susan Morrow (Amy Adams), who’s trapped in an unhappy marriage with an unfaithful husband. One day she receives the manuscript of a novel (dedicated to her) entitled ‘Nocturnal Animals’ from her ex-husband, whom she left on bad terms some years ago, and finds herself increasingly engrossed in it. The other story is the one told in the novel itself, a tale of obsession and vengeance that was set into motion when a teacher's road trip through West Texas with his wife (Isla Fisher, who kinda looks like Amy Adams!) and teenage daughter turned into a hellish living nightmare. The two otherwise unrelated stories are told in alternating fashion and are tied together by Jake Gyllenhaal, who played both the protagonist (teacher) in the novel and Susan’s real life ex-husband shown in a series of flashbacks, which gave me the unsettling impression that the events which unfolded in the novel are real. Alas, it is an allegory of the death of true love.
Billed as a “neo-noir psychological thriller,” ‘Nocturnal Animals’ is a boldly provocative film that’s unafraid to go where few other movies would dare. From its shocking and disturbing opening scene featuring plus-sized burlesque strippers to its final act, ‘Nocturnal Animals’ never ceases to surprise (though not always pleasantly) and manages to hold us spellbound even as it repulses us in its surreal excess and nihilistic violence.