Few films have me gasping at every turn, and even fewer make me question life and the thin line between reality and fiction itself, which is exactly what Tom Ford’s new cinematic venture did to me.
Granted, Nocturnal Animals is not for everyone. From its bizarre intro scene to the very end of the story, this adaptation of Austin Wright’s Tony and Susan has to grow on you, and if by the end of the first act it’s not keeping you on the edge of your seat like it happened to me, then this is not for you.
The story begins when Susan, a successful art gallery owner with a handsome-yet-cheating husband, receives a package from her first husband, Edward, containing his first novel, which he has dedicated to her. From this point onwards, the film divides what’s real and what’s not in a very subtle way that makes the stories not parallel, but intertwined. Ford’s script manages to show us slowly that the plot of Nocturnal Animals (the novel) is a representation of what happened to Susan and Edward 19 years earlier, when their marriage collapsed and then she cheated on him with the cheating handsome man, leading to a plot twist reveal that had me feeling so sorry for Edward -Jake Gyllenhaal’s eyes, like Amy Adams’s, can convey a sadness that few thespians these days manage to express without words.
Of course, without spoiling the film, Edward’s novel is his own way of getting revenge at his unsupportive ex-wife for all the calamities he suffered when they were young and in love, but beyond that, this is a thrilling film in which what we are shown rather than what we are told elevates it to one of the finest of the year. Even the supporting characters have an emotional depth to them that you could usually only find in a long-format HBO miniseries, not in a two-hour feature film. From Michael Shannon to Aaron Taylor-Johnson (whom I never thought I’d find disgusting in a movie) to Isla Fisher (great choice to play fictional Amy Adams, I always thought they looked similar) to even Laura Linney in a superb one-scene role, they all stand out on their own.
Although of course, it is Adams and Gyllenhaal who carry the weight on their shoulders. Why Adams still doesn’t have an Oscar is beyond me (let’s hope this and Arrival will help this year), and it is breathtaking to see how Gyllenhaal can so easily, in the same film, portray a naive 20-year-old and a broken man in his forties without making any of them seem forced.
Don’t judge the movie by its very beginning. Stay a bit longer and be thrilled by exhilarating storytelling.