A wealthy but unhappy artist is forced to finally confront her
own life decisions while reading her ex-husband's manuscript.
Nocturnal Animals (2016)
Written and Directed by Tom Ford
Starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon,
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Ellie Bamber, Armie Hammer, Karl Glusman, Laura Linney, Michael Sheen
Based on the novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright
Oscar Nominations - Best Supporting Actor (Michael Shannon)
Nocturnal Animals is a good film, but by God is it uncomfortable to watch. It dares to push the limit of just how much unpleasantness a viewer can take before he or she is driven to tears. By the end of the film, I was visibly shaken by the brutality and visceral humanity of this surprisingly deep foray into psychological drama. Nocturnal Animals brilliantly employs the "movie within a movie" technique to act out the novel that Amy Adams's character Susan reads throughout the film, aptly titled Nocturnal Animals. The novel is so obviously a metaphor for the rash decisions she'd made in her own life, but the journey remains intense and unpredictable.
This film contains a number of incredible performances, most notably by Jake Gyllenhaal and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Gyllenhaal played both Susan's writer ex-husband Edward and the protagonist of the novel, Tony. He really gets to showcase his dramatic chops as Tony, while Taylor-Johnson gets to go all out as a truly horrific villain. Amy Adams excelled as Susan, though I felt her character was never really fully fleshed out, mostly due to the film's focus on the characters in the book. Michael Shannon was simply fun to watch as Bobby Andes, the cop in the novel who tries to solve Tony's case. My one gripe with the film is that I wish it had put as much focus on developing the first layer of characters as it did on the characters in the book. By the end, everything I knew about Susan was harsh and negative, but she's still supposed to be the audience's identifier.
Nocturnal Animals is a sleeper hit that goes to lengths most films only touch on. It uses real fears that people have and real traumatic events that families have gone through in order to demonstrate how one's choices can lead to consequences that never even crossed your mind. With a host of fantastic performances and a script that feels way more real than it should, Nocturnal Animals is easily one of the biggest surprises of 2016. I could've done without the naked fat women in the opening credits though, Art is art, but I don't want to see that.