Monday 14 November 2016

Film: 'Nocturnal Animals'

Intelligent, stylish, double-layered thriller with some harrowing moments - and a suspended ending which drew audible gasps of exasperation from the audience, which I can well understand without my sharing their sense of (presumably) feeling cheated.

This is only Tom Ford's second film as director/writer but is every bit as masterly as his 'A Single Man' of 2009.

Heading a terrific cast, Amy Adams is an art gallery owner which, it turns out, is illustrated by the film's opening credits which I can promise you is, erm, 'unforgettable'. (Tee hee!)
She receives a surprise package at home, a book written by her husband of 20 years previously (Jake Gyllenhall). dedicated to her with the same title of the film, which refers to a name he once affectionately called her. They have been out of touch with each other in the interim, her own present marriage now also falling apart, and this gift now causes her to wonder if she did the right thing in ending her first.
She begins reading and this story of fiction is shown in tandem with her current situation. 

In the story which she reads she sees herself in the part of Gyllenhall's wife again, these two characters now having an adolescent daughter. The three of them are driving on a lonely highway at night when they try to overtake another car which, apparently, won't let them pass. Eventually overtaking them, the girl makes a gesture to the car through the back window. Bad move. The other car contains three roughneck hill-billy types. The consequence is disturbing to say the least. 
Michael Shannon impressively plays an unrepentently heavy-smoking, phlegm-coughing. lung cancer-suffering state cop investigator.
There's also Michael Sheen and Laura Linney in the cast, the latter in just one scene practically unrecognisable as Adams' insufferably reactionary and unforgiving mother.

The film flits back and forth from the written story to real-life, Adams and Gyllenhall meeting up again after all these years, he keen to know what she thinks of his novel, she having previously dismissed his potential as a writer. Could there be a possibility of their getting back together again?

I found the film absorbing on both its independent strands, all beautifully photographed, some shots looking as though they would not be out of place mounted in Adams' own gallery. Background music was, very sensibly, not at all obtrusive.

I was thoroughly impressed with all aspects of this film. If there was any slight difficulty I could mention it's that one is regularly shown Amy Adams' silent face as she puts down the book having come to the end of a key episode or she is too upset by it to read on. Has she got too emotionally involved by getting drawn into the fictional situation? Is she trying to relate it to her present position? Exactly what is she thinking? We don't know, but one could argue that it's better left open for us to put our own interpretation on what her thoughts could be. I think it's a perfectly valid approach.

In summary, a fine cinematic experience - exactly what I was hankering after...........8.


  1. Ford's directorial debut, "A Single Man" was impeccable and a film I still watch on a regular basis - discovering little things that add so much to our understanding the story which I now consider somewhat of a masterpiece. I have been waiting a long time for his second film and finally it has arrived! Judging from your review, it appears that my high expectations will be met.

    1. Although it's so very different from Ford's first, Paul, this film has a similar 'elegance' despite its several rough-edged moments.
      I've never seen 'Single Man' again since that first time and what you say indicates that I ought to, and perhaps even moreso with this latest one where I must own to a certain degree of bafflement at a number of points, which I partly excused as being 'art' but I suspect that with repeated viewing may resolve themselves more satisfactorily in my mind. I have confidence that with this your high expectations will indeed be reached.

      Btw: I was only thinking last night that Gyllenhall, perhaps more than any other current actor, now seems to appear exclusively in what might be termed 'quality' films. I can't think of the last one he was in which might be classed as a 'dud'. Perhaps there hasn't ever been one. As he seem to be unerring in his choice of picking 'winners' I hope he continues in his form.

  2. I loved A Single Man so much, so I cannot wait to see this one, too.

    1. As long as you're not expecting another 'Single Man', Bob, you'll surely be happy with this. However, 'Ford's' uniquely distinctive style is all over this one as well.

  3. Another great review Ray! I've forwarded your review to Pat. We both love good psychological thrillers.

    1. I'm glad that both of you will see and almost certainly like this one, Ron. It would have been a gross omission not to have taken it in and it'll easily make my 'Films of the Year' list (coming up shortly).