A beautiful lullaby of a nightmare embedded within a statement of the absurd artistic world from which it was birthed. The sublime craft of Nocturnal Animals from the sound and color to the pace and structure are all cheerfully undeniable.
The film follows two intertwined storylines one flowing from a fictitious creation existing in the other. This flow is created by two of the three major characters in each story being played by easily mistakable actors — Amy Adams and Isla Fisher, Ellie Bamber and India Menuez. This appears to have been to achieve a relation between the characters in either world signaling to them being pseudonyms for each other.
The tragic world of the second story told is encased within the manuscript existing in the first story. The second world follows the story of Edward Sheffield as he loses his wife and daughter to a brutal and yet beautifully shot encounter with a group of intoxicated middle aged men on a road in the nights heart of east Texas. While this is a clearly traumatic experience for the characters, while watching the film it seems difficult to separate their fears from your very own with the story feeling just as shock inducing to the viewer.
The first story originates from less of a fear mongering origin and comes from a romance now residing only in memories. The romance of Susan Morrow a Los Angeles art-gallery owner and Tony Hastings a novelist.
The two worlds come to bear when Susan Morrow delves into the pages of her ex husband’s new novel entitled Nocturnal Animals. The novel which Tony has dedicated to her. As Susan becomes almost encapsulated within the brutal story contained within those pages the story becomes almost a conduit for evaluating her past relationship with Tony.
Its safe to say that at least in visual craft Tom Ford has undeniably fulfilled his vision for the film. Nocturnal Animals made it difficult to notice any lack of attention to both craft and detail in any area of this superb picture. The colors are sublime and suited perfectly to the numerous feelings which the stories invoke. The sound was staggeringly unique, submerging and also knows just the moment to relieve itself to the silence that many modern age filmmakers overlook as a being a necessity.
The only two consequences of the dueling stories and something that is unnoticable till post watching is that the dialogue rhythm seems to be identical in both worlds while the stories are radically opposing. This is more of a burden on the romantic story than the second. The second consequence is that the jokes in the first world while making artistic statements about modern times are too soon from the separation of the tragic world to be taking lightly and can been seen as off putting to an otherwise tragic second story.
While directing the picture Tom Ford also wrote the screenplay adapting the story from the pages of Austin Wright’s novel ‘Tony and Susan’.
Isla Fisher delivered a performance that is truly immersive and much unlike those previously seen in her filmography. Amy Adams’ performance is stunning and blends in powerfully with the first story. As for Jake Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of both Tony Hastings and Edward Sheffield its glorious, his understanding of the psychological torment that his character is being forced through is clearly obvious only magnifying in each passing scene with his character’s moral decoupling between revenge and justice.
Looking ahead into the awards season it’s almost unimaginable to see how this film could not become one of the most recognized of the year. However the imbalance between a fully entertaining story and the features achievement in craft could lead it astray.
All of this having been written, for those with a love of cinematic craft, style and those with an artistic sensibility will adore this film for all it is and more importantly all that that it isn’t.
About the Author
Editor-in-Chief of Tastic Film Magazine James Rush.