‘NOCTURNAL ANIMALS’ (2016) MOVIE REVIEW – Gyllenhaal and Adams Combine Once Again
‘Nocturnal Animals’ is a Romantic Thriller from acclaimed fashion designer Tom Ford who appears to also harbour incredible writing and directing talent. This is a very dark and gripping film that follows art gallery owner Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) who receives a manuscript from her ex husband Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal) about the nightmares experienced by a family on a road trip that forces Susan to reflect on her past and the dark decisions she has made. Visually this film is stunning, Tom Ford clearly has an eye for great cinematography and utilises different visual techniques and hues to represent the mood in every scene and each story being told. The editing and storytelling techniques are some of the most unconventional techniques you will see and they work great… They work great for this story and can be linked to Tom Ford’s work going forward. The plot is thrilling, intense, and undeniably haunting at times to where it sucks you in to the characters putting you in their position and you feel what they experience in every distressing scene.
I went into this film knowing as little about it as possible and i feel like this elevated my experience as i didn’t quite know what to expect allowing the story to surprise me time after time. But the way this story unfolds over the course of the film is done in a clever way by jumping between modern day and flashbacks that reveal certain parallels and uncover more and more about a cloudy past we don’t know a whole lot about. The story is thrilling, distressing, and very dark, so don’t go into this film looking for fun as this just isn’t that kind of story. But just know that the ride consists of some intense stuff from beginning to end. There are some flashback sequences of Gyllenhaal and Adams’ characters that aren’t all that engaging and slow the film down a little. Some of these scenes are shocking and lead strongly into main plot points but some come across as filler that aren’t exactly as necessary to have.
The performances here are very strong all round. Amy Adams was very good but her character just isn’t given a whole lot to do in her best scenes i think the cinematography outshines her presence. Armie Hammer also appears in a minor roll who doesn’t do a whole lot other than be an element of another story being told. Jake Gyllenhaal is no doubt the standout with an emotionally strong and powerful performance as you’d expect, but it doesn’t quite reach some of his other more standout performances. Michael Shannon is also great in this film in an often expertly subdued role but does have many strong moments to shine. But probably the best performance besides that of Gyllenhaal is Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ray Marcus who shows off his acting range and a lot of talent, and adds to the tension in every scene he shows up in.
I will say though, if you want to avoid being slightly confused at the start of this film make sure you know the difference between Amy Adams and Isla Fisher. Assuming you haven’t been living under a rock you would know the two of them look insanely similar. They both star in this film and i can see where people might get confused with the story if they mix up the two actresses. The first scene Isla appears it even messed with my head a little but once you can recognise the difference you will have a somewhat easier time. But in the end, this is an intense, gripping, and haunting story written and directed greatly by Tom Ford that unfolds layer by layer over time. The cinematography is on point here and the unconventional storytelling techniques used are part of the artistic elements of this story. I didn’t love some of the flashback sequences and how they linked with the multiple stories being told but they would work for other people. This romantic thriller isn’t for everyone but for those wanting a slightly more intelligent film in the genre this is for you. If some of this review didn’t make a whole lot of sense due to having to be carefully vague it will come together once you watch the film.