The choice between love, sensitivity and risk oppose practicality, safety and materialism in Tom Ford's second feature Nocturnal Animals. Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) runs a prestigious art gallery in LA. Her latest exhibit featuring obese nude cheerleaders dancing in glass enclosures runs over the opening credits of the film. Susan leaves the opening to head home to her expansive utilitarian home where she gives the servants the weekend off. She sees her husband Hutton (Arnie Hammer) the next morning as he is on his way to New York to close out a big deal leaving Susan along in their large soulless mansion for the weekend. Into this settling a package arrives from her ex-husband Edward Sheffield (Jack Gyllenhaal) on the inner page the dedication reads to Susan. Thus begins a nightly ritual of settling into bed to read from the manuscript which serves as a story within the main narrative. In the book Tony (Gyllenhaal) is driving through East Texas with his wife Laura (Isla Fisher) and daughter India (Ellie Bamber) when they encounter two cars of locals moving slowly blocking the highway. As Tony tries to pass the most extreme case for road rage ensues resulting in horrific consequences for Tony and his family. As the tension builds in the story Susan often slams the book close gasping heavily as she struggles to catch her breath. Edward was the idealist that believed in her ability as an artist that she married against the wishes of her mother who called him weak foreseeing the eventual split.
Tom Ford's roots from the fashion world permeate the piece. The clothes worn by the main player are sleek and stylish looking fresh from the runway. The male characters feature the every present Tom Ford white shirt, black blazer uniform. While the design of the sets are flooded with black, whites and silvers down to the Morrow midnight black Mercedes. The story is based on the Austin Wright novel Tony and Susan. Ford's fingerprints are every present in the production serving as director, writer and producer. Ford contrasts the stylist LA world with the remote dusty Texas setting for the novel. The flashy runway wear is replaced with ball caps, tee shirts and torn jeans.
Amy Adams leads the cast as Susan. Deep inside she has the elements to embrace risk, show confidence in her abilities and to take a leap of faith but her practical side prevailed trapping her in a loveless marriage working as an administrator instead of a creative artist. Jake Gyllenhaal takes on one of his more emotionally charged due roles as idealistic Edward and psychologically traumatized Tony. Look for Laura Linney in a commanding once scene role as Susan mother Anne. She is the epitome of big hair conservative old money fit with a slow relaxed Texas drawl. Michael Shannon turns in another in a series for strong performances as the local law man Bobbly Andes who is not afraid to bend some rules as he helps Tony in the pursuit of the perpetrators.
Nocturnal Animals is a highly suspenseful violent tale of a man trying to communicate to his ex-wife the true extent of the pain that she has inflicted on him through a novel. Tom Ford's eye for fashion , shapes and colour saturate the screen. The two stories work well in tandem as the action switches back and forth throughout the production. The actors excel backed by strongly written dialogue and superior direction that will likely see the film at the head of the line during award season.
**** Out of 4.
Nocturnal Animals | Tom Ford | U.S.A. | 2016 | 115 Minutes.
Tags; LA, Gallery, Opening, Cheerleader, Divorce, Manuscript, Idealism, Materialism, Texas, Vacation, Road Rage, Highway, Flat, Shack.