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Nocturnal Animals (2016)

January 30, 2017 1 comment

Nocturnal Animals (2016)With Tom Ford at the wheel you know you’re going to be in for a stylish film if nothing else.  

Nocturnal Animals (2016) boils down to an ex-wife reading a book and taking baths. Susan (Amy Adams) receives a manuscript from ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) and reads it while her current husband is away, ostensibly on business but also, it seems, for pleasure.

In the script Adams places Gyllenhaal in the main role (as she knows he only writes about himself) and herself and her daughter in supporting roles, which suffer grisly ends. Gyllenhaal then with the assistance of local cop Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon) track down the perpetrators.

The book within the film (very much a play within a play) is Gyllenhaal’s way of showing the damage that Adams has done to him when she left and how his family has been destroyed while he was powerless to prevent it. The highly stylised manner that these sequences are presented make sense as we view the world through the eyes of Adams who portrays a gallery owner, which explains why things are presented in such a manner. There are subtle references to the end of the relationship which is also being remembered by Adams. The couch which she critiques the early work of Gyllenhaal on, is the same couch which her corpse is displayed on. The GTO which Gyllenhaal stands next to as she walks away is the car that the attackers ride in. The references are subtle but work well.

The roles taken by Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (who plays psychotic killer Ray Marcus) really shine in the film. The support they offer to Gyllenhaal, and in the case of Taylor-Johnson Adams, really helps elevate the film. Taylor-Johnson takes a character who could have been either over the top, or underplayed and makes him an excellent villain. His ability to convey messages with his eyes means that shots where his face fills the screen are effective. The drawling law man of Shannon gives you a strong figure to root for, and while his moral compass may be somewhat askew, his desire for justice and world weary attitude prevent him from being a stereotype.

While Adams is not in the flashbacks her world feels no more real than the novel she is imagining. What is interesting with the design of her character is the high contrast she has to the other people she interacts with. It may simply be her red hair and porcelain white skin compared to the sable, tan and peroxide that seem to be the world she lives in but it makes her stand out from the other women she interacts with. Adams plays a sad character who, like is prophesied, turns into her mother. Adams ends up desiring the material items she claims to have no interest in, but her character develops, realises what is important and by the end of the film stops needing the trappings that society demands and embraces herself. This rebellion against the norm can be seen within Adams from the start, though it is unknown to her. The gallery opening she has is naked women who do not conform to what is considered currently, to be beautiful, but whom are happy with themselves. It is this that Adams finds during the film through the journey that she goes on in the writings of Gyllenhaal.

The film is uncomfortable at times, but is beautiful on the eyes, has great acting and a score which knows that silence is sometimes, more powerful. Not for everyone but worth watching.

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