Nocturnal Animals – review

Nocturnal Animals tells the story of disillusioned, upper-middle-class, art-gallery owner Susan Morrow (Amy Adams), who is slowly coming to the realisation that her pursing-of-the-Joneses lifestyle, with the slick clothing, show home apartment and Adonis-esque husband (an underused Arnie Hammer), is not at all what she thought would be.

Estranged from her husband, who makes a great play of working on a deal, she unexpectedly receives a manuscript from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), a man who she left broken in the most unkind of circumstances nearly two decades before. The manuscript is dedicated to her and called – Nocturnal Animals.

As she reads the manuscript, she recalls moments in her past with him and moments that directed to her to her present, the book resonates strongly with her, creating feelings of guilt and regret.

Tom Ford, he of Gucci revival fame, is the visionary behind this venture. Anyone who knows anything about fashion, especially the high end, ultra sharp, show-me driven looks of the first decade of the new millennium, has witnessed the strong look of Tom Ford. He was always going to bring a strong visual style to cinema and Nocturnal Animals looks spectacular.

From the Michael Mann like landscape and cityscape shots to the pin sharp, clinically clean look of the city interiors, even the sun-scorched Texas desert scenes look good. This is a film shot with high resolution screening in mind. The blacks are inky and deep, making navy and even charcoal easily discernible. It is a truly colour rich film.

Not that the colour is used blithely. Susan’s city, gallery and bedroom scenes contrast easily with the softer remembrance scenes, the manuscript scenes stand out also with a different type of harshness.

The visual extravaganza is accompanied by a haunting, emotional soundtrack by Abel Korzeniowski. As much as the visuals keep you engaged, the music keeps an air of foreboding about the proceedings, keeping you wondering where the story is going take you.

For all his brilliance – and Ford is quite impressive – I felt the weakest, though not weak, part of his film was the script. It is a good script and a thoroughly engaging film, but the parts of the script that one would assume would be easiest for him to write, relate to; the gallery scenes, the party in the home – are the most clunky, almost heavy handed. The best scenes are the story-within-a-story scenes, where we are as engaged as Susan is and just as curious as to the outcome.

Because of the nature of the film and story, it is told in a meandering fashion, with present day, memory and fiction all being viewed simultaneously. It is, especially as a second feature, an incredibly brave piece of filmmaking. Tom Ford should be not only proud, he should perhaps not wait another seven years to make his next feature!

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