Script: Tom Ford
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Amy Adams, Isla Fisher, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon
Setting: 2010s, Los Angeles, New York, Texas
Rated : 9 Stars
IMDb blurb : 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.
If I had to describe this film in only one word, then I would say “provocative”.
But luckily I don’t have to use just one word, I can use many, because provocative all by itself doesn’t really say anything. In this case I mean that Nocturnal Animals is a film that makes you think, and it digs in, and makes you rethink what you were thinking. From the opening credits Nocturnal Animals seems to say hey, look at this. And then, says, yeah, that reaction, why do you think you had that? And what does that say about you, and other people, and society.
There are three distinct strands to the film. The one we start with is Susan (Amy Adams) and her current life of wealth and privilege and discontent. She is sent a manuscript by her ex-husband and it tells the violent, upsetting story of a family tragedy. The third and final strand is Susan’s past, her relationship with her ex-husband and her family. All three wind about each other and are echoed visually and thematically in the different stories.
And it is a beautiful film. Visually stunning. Everything is so carefully chosen and displayed in order to say something, to reference some thing. There are no accidents here.
It is also a very violent film. Okay, so the violence is part of the fiction, the book that Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) wrote, but it is horrible and upsetting. And the build up to it is so tense… it is really well done.
It is a film that so much could be said about. there are slight spoilers below, anything too much I’ll hide in tags, but if you want to know no more stop here.
Part of me really felt for Edward, he and Susan started out very much in love. He was so idealistic and committed to being an author, and artist. And he wanted that for Susan too. And at first impression the film seems to be on his side. But there is a very telling line when he and Susan argue and he tells her not to be afraid. She should commit to her art, and not be afraid. She responds by saying that she isn’t scared, she’s unhappy. This, to me, shows that although Edward may love Susan he isn’t really listening to her, and he certainly isn’t understanding what she wants out life and a relationship. He gives her his stories to read, but when gives her opinion he gets upset that she doesn’t like them. So again, maybe our instinct is to feel more for Edward, but a bit of thought and I came to think that she shouldn’t lie to him, she shouldn’t have to hide what he thinks. And she certainly shouldn’t be guilted into saying she liked what he wrote because he wrote it.
And then there is the story in the current strand. Where he is writing about how her leaving him affected him. Or is he? Is Susan just reading that into the story? I’m sure you could argue either way. Personally I think he did write it about her, the book is his revenge. And if you look at it that way then it is a horrible, terrible thing to do. Show Spoiler ▼
Thinking about this film makes me want to watch it all over again. I really really loved it.