‘Nocturnal Animals’ Tom Ford’s Visually Stunning Film Noir Thriller

‘Nocturnal Animals’ is a psychological thriller written and directed by Tom Ford. Ford has made only one other film a few years back, entitled ‘The Single Man’. He comes from the world of fashion, so it’s no wonder that both films are visually stunning and full of detail.

The first thing I must say (and this is not a SPOILER), is that the opening scene is one that is extremely unique and extremely disturbing. It definitely makes sense as the camera pans out and we realize we are in an art gallery run by Susan Morrow (Amy Adams, who is so freakin’ good in this). It’s obvious that Susan is one unhappy woman, despite her beauty, wealth and success.

Her marriage to her unfaithful husband, Hutton (Armie Hammer), is deteriorating, and they also have money problems. When Hutton leaves to go on one of his many business trips, Susan is left alone in her beautiful glass house, and we can see how lonely she is.

Out of the blue, she receives a manuscript for a novel written by her estranged ex-husband, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhal), along with an invitation for dinner during his upcoming visit to Los Angeles.

The book is called “Nocturnal Animals,” which was Edward’s nickname for Susan, and he has also dedicated the book to her. She at first finds this strange because their marriage ended bitterly and devastated Edward.

The story follows Tony Hastings (also played by Jake), who is driving through Texas on a dark, deserted road with his wife Laura (Isla Fisher), and his daughter, India (Ellie Bamber).

Without warning they are forced off the road by three local super bad dudes, Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Lou (Karl Glusman) and Turk (Robert Aramayo). After toying with Tony and his family, Ray and Turk drive away with his wife and daughter, leaving the helpless Hastings alone with Lou, who forces him to drive Ray’s car to an abandoned stretch of land where it quickly becomes obvious to Tony that Lou means to kill him.

Somehow, he manages to get away and runs to a farmhouse for help. The police come, but are completely useless. Eventually, Tony meets Detective Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon), who is assigned to the case. The detective agrees to help Tony bring these bad guys to justice–no matter what it takes.

We then return to Susan, who finds further evidence of her husband’s extramarital affair. As she resumes reading, we cut back to the screen where the story of Tony continues to unfold. I don’t want to say any more about his story because it definitely will be a big spoiler.

But as far as Susan, in between her reading the manuscript, we see  flashbacks of her life when she and Edward first get together to the displeasure of her mother (wonderfully played by Laura Linney). Mommy thinks Edward, who wants to be a writer, is way to weak for her daughter, and will never achieve his goals. Susan ignores her mother’s  advice and marries him anyway. It doesn’t take long for her to see that mother was right.

What’s so brilliant and unique about the film, which is based on a 1993 novel written by Austin Wright, is that it’s an allegory. The loss Edward experienced at the end of of his marriage to Susan is equal to the loss the character Tony experiences in the novel.

The last scene in the film is so visually beautiful as well as so profoundly sad thanks to the brilliant acting of Miss Adams and the equally brilliant direction of Tom Ford. I am giving this film, which opened in theaters yesterday five bagels out of five. Don’t miss it.

Joan Alperin

About Joan Alperin

Joan was born in Brooklyn and spent many years working as an actress in New York City. Even though she traveled extensively, Joan couldn't imagine living anywhere else.. Well one day, she met someone at a party who regaled her with stories about living in L. A. specifically Topanga Canyon. A few weeks later she found herself on an airplane bound for Los Angeles. Joan immediately fell in love with the town and has been living here for the last twenty years and yes, she even made it to Topanga Canyon, where she now resides, surrounded by nature, deer, owls and all kinds of extraordinary alien creatures.. Joan continued acting, but for the last several years (besides reviewing plays and film) she has been writing screenplays. Joan was married to a filmmaker who created the cult classic films, (way before she knew him) Faces of Death. As a result of his huge following, they created a funny movie review show entitled Two Jews on Film, where Joan and her husband, John would review movies and rate them with bagels You can see their reviews by going to youtube.com/twojewsonfilm. Although it's now only one Jew - Joan is occasionally joined by her beautiful Pekingnese and Japanese Chin.
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