Review: Nocturnal Animals


I was literally on the edge of my seat for part of “Nocturnal Animals,” the new psychological thriller from writer/director Tom Ford.  Starring Amy Adams as “Susan,” an art mogul who receives a copy of her ex-husband’s novel.  She is drawn into the story – and so are we.

Jake Gyllenhaal turns in a restrained, understated performance as both “Tony,” the main character in the novel and Edward, the ex-husband.  This story-within-a-story is a violent one, full of gut-wrenching heartbreak and unsavory characters.  We meet a trio of bad guys, led by “Ray Marcus” (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).  He’s as frightening as he is unpredictable; it’s an unnerving portrayal.  Also outstanding is Michael Shannon as “Bobby Andes,” a throwback old-West-style cop who is heading up the investigation into the incident involving Tony and his wife and daughter.  Shannon is terrifying in his own right; we’re glad he’s on our side.

Meanwhile, as Susan reads through the novel she begins to see the symbolism mirrored in her relationship with Edward, the author of Nocturnal Animals.  Similarly to “Manchester By the Sea,” we see flashbacks to a younger, more vibrant version of Susan.  Adams, a multiple time Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee, gives another star turn.  She says little in this film, in comparison to others, but her face and her body language tells an emotional tale.

Laura Linney has a small but memorable scene as Susan’s mother.  “We all become our mothers,” she says.  And Susan is horrified to realize that she may have – but not in the obvious ways.  They are very different in taste, style, and values.  But as Edward told her, “You both have the same sadness in your eyes.”

You may leave the theater feeling some of that sadness.  While there is a taut psychological thriller woven into the fabric of the film the bulk of the movie is a bleak drama about how our choices can do irreparable damage.  It’s not a happy holiday story, but it is a very good movie.

Director(s): Tom Ford
Writer(s): Tom Ford (screenplay), Austin Wright (novel)
Notable Cast: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Laura Linney

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