Tom Ford has never been one to shy away from controversy, and his new thriller Nocturnal Animals dives head first into themes of obsession, materialism, and secrecy, which is certain to both entice and disturb his audience.
While his first film, A Single Man, featured a narrative built entirely around the interior thoughts of his lead character, Nocturnal Animals instead utilises two different narratives to explore some very unsettling ideas and themes.
Taking the lead is Amy Adams as Susan Marrow, a wealthy art dealer who is beginning to see the cracks in her perfectly decadent world. While it is hard to go into to much detail about Susan’s role in the film without going into spoiler territory, Adams’ performance is certainly engrossing. Much of her performance revolves around the unsettling choices that her character has made in her life, and Adams does everything in her power to make you dislike Susan.
While the leading lady brings a haunting quality to her performance, it is Jake Gyllenhaal in the dual role of Edward Sheffield and his literary character Tony Hastings, who really steals the film. Audience members may be used to seeing Gyllenhaal portray empowering, strong-willed characters, but here he goes in the opposite direction. The characters of Edward and Tony are both weak-willed, world-weary men who cannot deal with the pressures or hardships of the worlds they inhabit. Nocturnal Animals was certainly a risky choice for Gyllenhaal, but it is one that has tremendously paid off.
Terrific support is also provided by Michael Shannon as tough-as-nails detective Bobby Andes, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as skeevy criminal Ray Marcus. Shannon has always been one to intimidate his audience, but he takes it to another level as Andes. This gruff Texas lawman has no time for procedure in his pursuit of justice, and his methodology could almost be considered criminal. As Andes he’s willing to cross any line to find justice for Tony, and this takes the pair of them into some very dark places. Taylor-Johnson, on the other hand, is an utter loose canon as the violently unpredictable Marcus. He throws away any kind of class as this white trash thug, and his interactions and tormenting of Gyllenhaal’s Tony is a terrifying experience.
While Nocturnal Animals is a genuinely unsettling film to watch, Ford’s fearlessness to present his subject matter in all its unpleasantness is a testament to his talents as a director. As a filmmaker he effortlessly captures and juxtaposes the isolation and coldness of Susan’s L.A. lifestyle with that of the rough edges of the haunting West Texas landscape that is presented in Edward’s manuscript. Both worlds are captured with flawless cinematography by Seamus McGarvey (Atonement, Fifty Shades of Grey), and composer Abel Korzeniowski’s melodic yet frightening score certainly keeps you on edge.
Image source: Paramount Pictures