Nocturnal Animals (2016)5:40 PM
When you love someone, you can't just throw it away
Nocturnal Animals is written and directed by Tom Ford (A Single Man) and stars Amy Adams (Arrival, Enchanted), Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, Southpaw), Michael Shannon (Man of Steel, Take Shelter), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass, Godzilla) and Isla Fisher (Now You See Me, Home and Away). "An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband's novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale". Ford doesn't have too much experience in the film industry but he is sure to bring a lot of style to anything he makes - can he make a stylish but still thrilling film?
The big sell for me with this film was Amy Adams - after seeing Arrival a week ago and hearing good things about Nocturnal Animals, I really wanted to see it. Arrival is definitely the superior film but Nocturnal Animals is still a solid flick that like The Neon Demon, provides a lot of critical value and I really think you could analyse and look into this thing and find some really interesting themes and messages. Unlike Arrival, this one isn't unmissable but if you are interesting in witnessing the rise of Adams this awards season then it is definitely worth the watch. Otherwise, if you just like a romantic thriller, this could also appeal to you.
Tom Ford directs this film and he definitely makes it extremely stylish - the cinematography and visuals in Nocturnal Animals are definitely one of the stronger points. From the costumes to the sets to the lighting, it all just feels very stylish. This is definitely a modern take on the thriller genre and almost takes place in a futuristic world (but not too far in the future). Ford really has crafted something quite unique with this film -he brings style but also a pretty interesting and mind bending plot.
Ford also wrote this film and he did a very good job - he has successfully created two narratives within one film. This section of the review will be split into two parts - narrative 1 and narrative 2. Narrative 1 is the surface level narrative that involves Amy Adams' character receiving a mysterious book from her ex-husband. As the film kept switching between the two, you really wanted to know why Adams was sent this book and how everything was going to tie together. However, the film never lets you know that so the ending is almost open for interpretation - is her ex trying to make her miss him? Is he just a psycho sending her a book that involves graphic details about her life? is he trying to mess with her? Is this book a metaphor for their relationship? We still do not know the answers after watching and I am sure after a few more watches, I would be able to analyse into it and come up with my own theory. The second narrative (the actual content of the book) is where all the action and thrill is at - it seems to start off as a re-telling of the couples relationship but that theory is diffused quickly when some graphic deaths occur. Then the plot turns into an almost Western murder mystery which was unexpected but I was also wondering the whole time how it was all going to tie with the plot in present day. Nocturnal Animals really messed with my mind as I didn't know what it was trying to say but I know it was trying to say something - it is a film that does need numerous watches. This is extremely intelligent writing and film-making...if there is a hidden theme/metaphor - otherwise it is a little sloppy (but I don't think that's the case at all).
The performances are all of a good standard in this film - however, I don't think I'd rush to give any of these actors awards nominations for these roles. Amy Adams definitely deserves at least a nomination for Arrival but here, although she was good when on-screen, she really wasn't given much to say or do other than react to what she was reading. Isla Fisher who was playing the fictional Adams was very good and at first I actually thought she was Adams, it took me a while to click. Fisher's time in the film is short but she does a good job. I would probably say that Jake Gyllenhaal has the most to do in this film and is probably the most interesting character, and also the most impressive performance. There were no bad performances in the film, everyone in Nocturnal Animals did a really nice job, but some weren't given quite enough to do (i.e. Adams).
So is Nocturnal Animals, supposedly a thriller actually thrilling? I think a lot of the general public would say no to this question. However, I believe Nocturnal Animals is very thrilling, in a very subtle way. I don't know how Ford has managed to do it but the tension is incredibly subtle and I don't know whether it is the mystery element but there is an uneasy feeling underlying throughout the film so it is more of a slow-burn thriller and there isn't a clear payoff but that kind of adds to the thrilling and mysterious element. Nocturnal Animals is also a lot more romantic than I was expecting - a lot of the thrill is created through a romance gone wrong.
Should you see Nocturnal Animals? Well, I liked it and this is a positive review but I do have to admit this isn't a film for everyone and probably won't appeal to the mainstream. Everything about the film is incredibly subtle so it could easily come across as boring and dull. However, the performances are strong and the story is intriguing throughout, despite the ending being very annoying! This film will mess with your mind and will want you to want more. Nocturnal Animals has a very unique style to it - it is picturesque and very stylish - even some of the gruesome moments are shot in quite a beautiful and photographic way. Is this Amy Adam's best film of the year? No, Arrival beats it by a mile but it certainly is a solid entry for her portfolio.
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