When looking at the cinematic work of Tom Ford, it’s very easy to see that he is involved in fashion. The creative director at Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, Ford dipped his toe into film with the 2009 drama A Single Man, which earned lead actor Colin Firth a Golden Globe and Oscar nomination and won him a BAFTA award. A visually striking film, Tom Ford’s debut film had me captivated throughout, so when I saw that he was writing, directing and producing a new film, Nocturnal Animals, I was very intrigued with what type of story he was tackling. This turned into some cinematic excitement when I saw the cast attached and learned that it’d be a sort of half noir psychological thriller.
The film has two different stories running alongside each other. The main plotline is about Susan, played by Amy Adams in another role that furthers her from the stink of Lois Lane. She is an artist living the high life with her husband (Armie Hammer), who may be approaching financial troubles. She receives a parcel from her ex-husband, a Texas writer, that contains his new novel. When Susan starts to read the book, the film shifts to tell this story as well, about a father, Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal), his wife (Isla Fisher) and their daughter on their way down a Texas highway at night. Their car is attacked by some men and driven off the road, which culminates with an uncomfortable and tense meeting at the side of the road before the men abduct the wife and daughter. Tony must then chase down these men to save his family.
Ford’s command of this film is what had me so drawn in. His framing and use of color is absolutely mesmerizing, something we can also attribute to cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, who was responsible for Atonement, High Fidelity and many more great films. I feel like this is a film I could go back and pick deeper meanings within the color palate between scene transitions, as Nocturnal Animals seems to exude a rich tapestry of understated images. I also found the blend of gritty crime noir storytelling mixed within this vapid high society interaction of Susan’s word that comes off as a crazy nihilist blend between Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters. One scene in particular, is so brash and brazen in its dialogue delivery that I laughed out loud at the harshness.
This brings me to the acting, which flows right in sync with Tom Ford’s storytelling. Adams really solidifies her owning of the end of 2016, with this and Arrival but Jake Gyllenhaal is no slouch, playing both the fictional Tony and Susan’s writer ex-husband in flashbacks. The former Donnie Darko actor is fast rising again after being robbed of an Oscar nomination for Nightcrawler. The glue that holds Jakes performance together so well is the supporting role from the impeccable Michael Shannon, a guy that always brings it. Nocturnal Animals is a film that I needed time to mull over because, as much as I liked it, I’m unsure if it stuck the landing. Unlike Indignation earlier this year, a film that takes an abrupt and cold sharp turn in the third act, Nocturnal Animals may have just sputtered out in the end, a shame because of how gripping the film is until this point. It ultimately lost itself a good chunk of points in my book. 3.5/5