Nocturnal Animals (2016): Film Review

Directed by: Tom Ford
Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon
Viewed: Phoenix Cinema, Leicester, 15/11/16
An owner of an art gallery’s life isn’t in the greatest place as her husband is cheating on her and they’re struggling financially. Out of the blue, Susan (Amy Adams), receives a package from her ex-husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), which contains a new novel he has written. From here, we get to see the estranged couples past, as well as seeing the contents of the novel play out on screen, and the effect it has on Susan’s mental state. Nocturnal Animals isn’t an easy watch, and it certainly won’t give you all the answers, leaving your imagination to fill in the blanks.

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The narrative of this film isn’t always easy to follow, rapidly flicking between past, present and the fictional events from the novel. It does contain more than one scene filled to the brim with tension, which is masterfully captured by the brilliant acting and chilling soundtrack. Michael Shannon is always a credit to the cast of any film, and he proves himself once again as one of the greats of independent film by playing a police officer with shaky morals that is likeable from the get go. The film can be tough to watch at times, from the opening credits which features a far from flattering naked woman dancing, to some quite horrendous psychological abuse and physical brutality, though it does create very powerful imagery. The film is shot beautifully, and is directed in a way that can make you feel unsettled in even the most mundane moments.
What you take away from this film will remain entirely up to you as an audience member. It will leave you thinking for a long time after the end credits role, and will definitely leave some people frustrated due to the nature of its cold ending. Although the film is clever, I can’t help but feel that Nocturnal Animals is too pretentious for its own good. A film that can get me thinking is always worth a watch, but it feels as though it has a lot to say, without actually saying much of anything. The story being told in the novel would have made for a gripping film on its own merit, whilst the events going on in the ‘real’ world feel a little redundant.

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Nocturnal Animals is beautiful, chilling, challenging and thought provoking. It is not for the casual cinema goer, and it comes across as an art-house film, but with a lack of substance to back it up, never venturing much further from the topic of human morality. Whilst it may not be necessary for everything to be explained in black and white, I believe something was missing in order to make viewers actually care about what was going on outside of the novel.
Nocturnal Animals is a full of itself – 6/10
Fun fact: It boasts the highest amount of money ever paid for a film after a festival screening, with Focus Features paying $20 million for global distribution rights.

Stuart Keating