Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney,
Director: Tom Ford
Some people said that it was crazy that Tom Ford, the fashion designer and makeup mogul, wanted to make films too. And then he made A Single Man, and everyone sat up and took notice. Here he follows up that work with a dark but beautiful film about love, marriage and death and revenge.
Susan (Adams) is a wealthy gallery owner, whose life appears to be wonderful from the outside, but from the inside lacks the important things: love and fulfillment. Her husband is handsome, charming but unfaithful. Her gallery is successful, but she gave up creating her own work to get it. But she’s happy enough until her ex-husband Tony (Gyllenhaal) sends her a manuscript of his new novel, the plot of which is very violent, and possibly a form of revenge fantasy against his ex-wife. The book is called Nocturnal Animals, which was also a pet name for his wife, who was a night owl.
The plot of Susan’s life, her old life and the plot of the book all intertwine and unfold as interweaving strands in the film. In the book, a man is driving with his wife and daughter when they are driven off the road by crazy red necks who kidnap and kill the women. In life, Susan loved Tony, but ultimately rejected him for not being harder and more driven, and now she wonders if she made the right decision, and what his intentions are with the book.
It’s an incredibly stylish film, each shot is like a photograph you could frame and put on your wall, and it plays up the idea of style over substance, of glamour and wealth over what’s real. The juxtaposition of grit and dusty wild landscape in the book plot and the cool, streamlined interiors of Susan’s life is stark. There’s a lot in this film, and some of it is quite confronting, but it’s also startling to come across such a beautiful, deep movie in the current film climate. In a way, I loved this film because it’s so beautiful and moving, and in another, I hated it for it’s ugliness and violence. And I think that that is a very good thing.
See It If: you like your films to be a little more thought provoking, or if you love Tom Ford. It’s really something.