Directed by Tom Ford – Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Sheen
Since this is pretty much the Tom Ford show ( he wrote, directed and co-produced it) you just know that this is going to be a stylish affair. And indeed, it has possibly one of the most striking openings you will ever see in a movie. Couple this with the fact that the source material for this, the 1993 Austin Wright novel, Tony and Susan, is an extremely complex and mesmerising work, and you should have all the elements of a tense drama.
Adams plays Susan, a gallery-owner, who on the surface, has it all. However, her marriage to Hutton (Hammer) is in trouble, and the couple are facing financial ruin. Out of the blue, she receives a copy of a manuscript her ex-husband, Edward (Gyllenhaal) has written, called Nocturnal Animals.
Intrigued, she sits down to read it, and finds herself deeply moved by the story, about a man, whose wife and daughter are raped and murdered, after they are accosted on the road by a gang in the middle of the night. He must then work with a world-weary detective, to try and bring the perpetrators to justice. As she reads, she also begins recalling her life with Edward, and is forced to deal with things long buried.
This is incredibly meta. As she reads the book, the actions within are portrayed on screen, so we essentially get a story within a story. But we also have the flashback story of Edward and Susan’s relationship. So in theory, you are actually getting three tales. Gyllenhaal takes on the dual role of Edward and the books protagonist, and gives an astonishing performance. For Adams’ part, she is subtle and understated, conveying numerous feelings and relationship histories with just a glance. The rest of this impressive ensemble cast all do a great job, although some only have fleeting appearances. Linney in particular is very memorable playing Susan’s mother.
The scenes from the book are gritty, but the scenes in Susan’s real life almost look like a Vogue shoot. They are super-sleek, and everything, from the furniture to the clothes, looks as if it was just taken straight from the showroom or catwalk. This gives it a somewhat antiseptic feel, which may not work on another movie, but here serves to reinforce how fake and unfulfilling Susan’s life has become.
This is a fascinating watch that will leave you with numerous questions. Although it jumps back and forth between the various stories, it doesn’t become confusing. When it finally ends, it is deeply unsatisfying, but in a good way, as you feel you must see what happens next.
Gripping, engaging, and stylishly grotesque, this is a great movie that will certainly give you plenty to talk about afterwards.
In Cinemas November 4th! See trailer below: