Venice Film Festival: Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals
Directed by Tom Ford
Starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Karl Glusman, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough and Michael Sheen
Watch on iTunes

by Laura Patricia Jones

Visually stunning cinematography, witty and gripping script, fast-paced narrative – it’s hard to know where to begin with fashion designer turned director / screenwriter Tom Ford’s latest offering.

It’s glitzy, it’s glamourous, it’s gritty.

Susan (Amy Adams) appears to have it all – owner of an LA art gallery, a fully staffed home, a ludicrously attractive businessman husband, and she is made up so impeccably stylish you’d think she was being followed around all day by a MAC team. One morning she’s sent a novel by her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) entitled ‘Nocturnal Animals‘. She sinks her teeth into it for the weekend while her playboy husband runs off for an urgent business trip, aka the classic extramarital affair.

Edward’s novel turns out to be dark and gripping, a million miles apart from his work that she read when they were together. Edward’s ‘Nocturnal Animals’ becomes a film within a film as we watch the story of Tony (also played by Gyllenhaal), his wife (Isla Fisher), and daughter as they drive across a deserted stretch of Texas. The family get set upon by a gang of joy riders headed up by Ray Marcus, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson in a terrifying and grotesque performance, as Tony is all but powerless to act as his family are kidnapped.

Detective Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon) takes on the case and forms a bond with Tony to help bring the gang to justice. Back on the other side, Susan becomes moved by Edward’s writing which drags up feelings and memories of the past as she builds a connections towards the characters.  As the plot thickens, it becomes clear that Edward’s novel addresses things within them as a couple.  It’s an almost revenge style gift as the two plots become intertwined.

The privileged backdrop of money, glitz and glamour pays homage to the fantastical world of the wealthy elite – a parody which draws us to question the ridiculous nature of modern living. A question that draws Susan to reevaluate her life and to put things into perspective after reading Edward’s novel.  It’s a great societal message, but one that’s splashed onto a provocative and alluring film full of filth and grit.

Tom Ford’s second feature is in a different league to its predecessor, A Single Man. Ford certainly gives us something very tasty to chew on with Nocturnal Animals of the human kind.


Leave a Reply