Film Review: Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals

Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals is a sumptuous and tense film. The director keeps viewers captivated throughout.

Gallerist Susan Morrow receives a package from her ex-husband out of the blue. It contains the manuscript to a novel he has written, which has been dedicated to Susan…

Ford’s wonderful directorial debut A Single Man would have many keen to know what he would do next in the cinematic sphere. Despite the recess, this sophomore picture does not disappoint. Nocturnal Animals offers both style and substance. It is pensive and intriguing.

Based on Austin Wright’s novel ‘Tony and Susan’, Nocturnal Animals features a story within a story. Writer-director Tom Ford reels in viewers with both tangents, keeping them guessing as to a number of facets. The exterior narrative of Susan reading the manuscript works well because there are several elements which are left uncovered. Ford deliberately keeps the nature of Susan and Edward’s relationship under wraps until later in the film. This functions to give to offer a sense of mystery. It also is unclear where this narrative will go, and how it will conclude. The final sequence is subtle, but appropriate.

The interior ‘novel’ narrative has more fire to it. There is a tension which becomes unbearable at a point. Once a critical event has occured, there is still a sense of foreboding. This is joined by a bleakness that is contemplative. As the two stories dovetail, some viewers may hope for a deeply satisfying conclusion. Ford draws back from this, instead delivering a subtler ending. In this way, Nocturnal Animals is more realistic. Ford conveys to viewers that they can’t always get what they want. It is a stronger film for not choosing an expected conclusion.

As expected, the visual style of the film is richly indulgent. Ford shoots his characters and locations beautifully. The score is also great. Amy Adams offers a great performance as Susan, whilst Jake Gyllenhaal is powerful in his role. Michael Shannon injects a surprising amount of humour.

Nocturnal Animals is a pleasing second feature from Tom Ford. Viewers tempted in by the visuals will appreciate the engaging narrative.

Nocturnal Animals is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.

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