Nocturnal Animals (2016)
Directed by Tom Ford
For fashion designer turned acclaimed writer/director Tom Ford’s second feature, “Nocturnal Animals,” he adapted a 1993 novel from a tiny publisher called “Tony and Susan” that was hardly known until it found unlikely success in the UK almost two decades after its release. “Nocturnal Animals” breathes new life in the brand of slow-burning noir thrillers that have lately been inconsistent at best and intolerable at worst. It turns the fading genre into a Best Picture contender (or vastly underappreciated should-be contender).
Nineteen years after their short grad-school marriage, Susan (Amy Adams), now an art gallery director, receives a manuscript from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), an unsuccessful novelist. Susan had been thinking of Edward lately—her current marriage to Hutton (Armie Hammer) hasn’t been all she hoped. After all, the only reason Susan devastated Edward with a sudden break-up was because she thought he lacked ambition. She still loved him. So Susan reads the manuscript—only to discover that the characters in the story sound a lot like Edward and her, but in a dark story that also involves a dangerous motorist (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a renegade cop (Michael Shannon), and a tragic story of revenge.
If you’re looking for the year’s best ensemble cast, look no further. A complicated story like “Nocturnal Animals” demands the type of emotional nuance only displayed by top-tier acting talent. It’s nothing without its cast. Amy Adams can convey a story with a glance. Jake Gyllenhaal can make you feel pity like you haven’t even felt in real life. Michael Shannon deserves award season attention. He commands the screen. They’re a big reason “Nocturnal Animals” is able to succeed, but they’re far from the only reason. Abel Korzeniowski’s lingering bone-chilling score sets the mood for every scene. On a technical level, “Nocturnal Animals” does everything it can to get you in the right frame of mind for what you’re about to see. If you’ve seen the trailer, you have no idea what it’s about. But I assure you, “Nocturnal Animals” is something worth watching—especially if you can see it in theaters.