Based on Austin Wright’s Tony and Susan, the film’s narrative unfolds on three interconnected levels: the present, where a frustrated art gallery owner (Amy Adams) receives the manuscript of her ex-husband’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) soon-to-be-published novel; the past, with flashbacks illustrating the birth, evolution and death of their relationship; and the fictional world of Nocturnal Animals, a stark tale of revenge where a grief-stricken man (also played by Gyllenhaal) teams up with an eccentric detective (Michael Shannon) to make sure justice prevails.
Whereas A Single Man remained visually uniform from start to finish, coinciding with the protagonist’s sombre mood, Nocturnal Animals presents two very distinct worlds: a similarly grey “reality”, where elegant aesthetics hide a profound sadness, and the pulpy desert landscape that wouldn’t feel out of place in a film by the Coen brothers (Exhibit A: Shannon succumbing to a bout of nausea during a shootout). In between, there is the odd middle ground, such as Adams’ hilarious encounter with Laura Linney, who convincingly plays her mother despite being only ten years her senior.
In addition to the sublime craftsmanship on display, Ford confirms his superb rapport with actors, with at least two performances that are very likely to follow in Colin Firth’s Single Man footsteps as recurring presences during the upcoming awards season. Gyllenhaal, in particular, handles the complexities of a double role with even more confidence than he did in Enemy, transitioning effortlessly from charming to unbearably intense from one scene to the next. Adams, seemingly stuck with the more thankless of the two leading parts, is the film’s true emotional anchor, often conveying contradictory emotions with little more than a look. And while Shannon delivers another reliably oddball performance, the true – and unexpected – delight in the “disconcerting” department is Aaron Taylor-Johnson as a genuinely unsettling redneck villain.
Harrowing and exhilarating in equal measure, Nocturnal Animals is an assured, gorgeous and spellbinding depiction of love, loss and frustration, with flawless contributions from all the people involved. Any doubts about Tom Ford being a name to keep an eye on in the filmmaking world have definitely vanished.
|What||Nocturnal Animals film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
04 Nov 16 – 04 Jan 17, Times vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more details|