This review was written by Anthony J Digioia. Follow him and his website here for more awesome reviews: SilverScreen Analysis
“Nocturnal Animals” stars; Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and is directed by Tom Ford who also wrote the screenplay for this film.
The story follows an art gallery owner who lives a lavish, but unfulfilled life with her handsome husband. One day she receives a manuscript from her ex-husband and as she begins to read it her subconscious begins to travel back to their time together and the wrongs she did him. As she continues through the novel and the violence increases she begins to see the symbolism in the story and slowly realizes the book is a cryptic message that he was not the man she thought he was.
Tom Ford is a talented designer, highly artistic in his craft, and his artistic creativity shines throughout this movie. From start-to-finish I loved this story, it was extremely well written, and by using the structure it did, the curiosity and intrigue build seamlessly as the film progresses. The story-line is told in sections, with pieces of information that fall into place at the right time to deliver the strongest impact. It was compelling as it played out and it did an effective job of having my attention and intrigued locked, making me want to see the next scene.
The cast was excellent from top-to-bottom. Amy Adams did a great job of conveying this subtly complex character. She lives in a world of high society where everything is a facade and everyone struggles to maintain the persona of who the people around them expect them to be, while on the inside being completely miserable. She is torn from her past but she also conveys a realist mentality that she must live with the consequences of her actions.
Gyllenhaal was awesome as well, as he usually is. He was exactly what this role needed and was fantastic in his more emotionally driven scenes. He plays virtually two characters in this film and is able to give them both their own personalities while still maintaining some core commonalities between the two. Aaron Taylor-Johnson was also a pleasant surprise in this film. His performance was absolutely effective as he played this grimy character with perfection.
However, while both Adams and Gyllenhaal were perfect for their roles, and delivered strong performances. The true bright-spot, and easy standout in this film, was Michael Shannon’s performance. He wasn’t as impactful on the story but he was excellent in his scenes and creates yet another compelling character for this story. Shannon’s character was well written into this script and Shannon definitely makes the most out of it.
As I said before this was a very stylish film in its appearance. The world of high priced art and rich socialites are well captured. You get pulled into the settings but I loved how as Adam’s character reads this book in her lavish home, it never came off as comfortable. It was a home anyone would die to live in, but it was portrayed in this film as a sort of prison for her, it was dark, cold, not inviting and while she worked all those years to elevate here stature to this fancy lifestyle, she didn’t enjoy the fruits of her labor.
It was subtle but there were many moments like this that gave the story a level of substance to stand shoulder to shoulder with the polished visual appeal. The shots were all well framed, the settings and locations were all captured to convey exactly what this story needed them to and it was highly entertaining. The pace was methodical but it never dragged, never felt boring, and commanded my attention throughout.
If there was a complaint about this film, it would be nitpicking, but I would have liked a little more meat to the history of the relationship between Adams and Gyllenhaal’s characters. But that’s just my opinion, this story was still awesome and impactful as it was.
If you enjoy a riveting, intense thriller, that doesn’t lay everything right out there for you, then this film is easily recommended. It was an artistic film but didn’t get lost in its focus of telling a suspense story, it considers its audience smart, doesn’t waste time with exposition, and being able to think about the plot was a breath of fresh air.