Based on Austin Wright’s novel “Tony and Susan”, Nocturnal Animals is a drama thriller that cryptically explores marriage and relationships in a modern society. The film is developed on two levels that interact with one another through the protagonist’s deep reactions to her ex-husband’s debut crime novel.
Susan Morrow is a successful artist who just opened a new modern art exhibition, she is well acclaimed and has an apparently good marriage. However, this is only a perfect life on the surface. In fact, Susan is never completely content, and just like a true artist, is always conflicted and perpetually on edge. Her distrust makes her restless and unable to sleep without the help of pills. After receiving her ex-husband’s first novel, Nocturnal Animals, a nickname that he gave her when they were still together because of her inability to sleep throughout the night, Susan starts spending her nights reading it and is completely immersed in the thriller. Engrossed by the story, she starts reminiscing about her past marriage to Edward and how it came to an end.
What makes Nocturnal Animals an aesthetically great product is not just the incredible cast but the structure and cinematography of the film.
The story is split into two levels, on the screen the audience experiences both Susan’s real life and the story she is reading, and it does so through the deep reactions that the artist has to her ex-husband’s words. The crime/thriller plot in the book is fascinating and gripping and the feeling of anxiousness is made stronger by projecting it through Susan and the fact that she sees herself in the female character.
Tom Ford’s talent is evident in the sharpness of every single frame, the fluidity in which he merges together the story in the book and Susan’s reactions to it is flawless. Every colour is warm and vivid and the juxtaposition between Susan and Tony’s emotional outbursts makes the movie even more interesting to experience.
Ford’s attention to every detail and his love for fashion as well as his impeccable taste are ever present throughout the movie, so much so that it becomes a feast for the eyes to see how well he combines his two careers in this production.
As I already mentioned the cast ensemble did a superb job in interpreting their characters’ stories. The uncanny resemblance between Amy Adams and Isla Fisher, who plays Tony’s wife in the book, makes it easier to understand why the story in the manuscript is deeply connected to Susan’s reality.
It is precisely this overlapping between the book and how Susan reacts to it that opens the window for the discussion about relationships and marriage. While she is reading what can be considered an exasperated rendition of Edward’s emotions through their marriage, Susan has the chance to analyse what went wrong in their partnership. In this story, the book becomes an exercise for Edward and a way to release his demons as well as Susan’s wake up call to make her understand how fake her life has become and how it is built on appearance and pretense.
Amy Adams shows once again her effortless talent in portraying a complex character like Susan; she commands every single scene and her profound understanding how Susan’s personality makes it easier for the audience to forget the actress playing the part and just experience the story through her emotions.
Jake Gyllenhaal is fantastic as both Edward and Tony. His performance is consistent throughout the movie. Edward’s love for Susan is evident and strong and when he plays Tony, vengeance and the need for closure are the two forces behind his actions.
Thanks to a phenomenal directing technique, a cast ensemble that worked together as a well oiled machine and two stories deeply intertwined together, Nocturnal Animal is an excellent movie that combines drama and thriller with the right balance to keep the audience glued to the screen while at the same time make them reflect on human relationships and love.