Mount St. Joseph University

Review: Nocturnal Animals: A Gripping Tale Tied into One Ultimate Reality

Dateline: student newspaper

By: Michael Mullin

“When you love someone you have to be careful with it, you might never get it again,” mutters one of the main characters at the tail end of Nocturnal Animals, the second directed by fashion designer Tom Ford. Ford, who was most notably recognized for his first successful direction of A Single Man, has taken the writing from Austin Wright’s novel, Tony and Susan, and turned it into a masterpiece. In a more liberal take on the story, Ford adds something close to dark humor and plays on the viewer's fears and insecurities. Most importantly for Ford, he uses the actions that take place during the film to spark the imagination of each viewer in the audience.

The meta-mystery thriller conveys three different stories, one being completely fictional and the other two being non-fictional within the entire film. Sometimes, meta-thrillers or tales in general can be hard to understand and follow along for many viewers, but in this electrifying sage there is no confusion whatsoever. All of the tales involved make for a very interesting dynamic that connects each separate duration in time together for one final understanding and ending: an LA dramatic thriller that focuses on a complacent business owner who is nearly bankrupt that is married to an unsatisfied art gallery owner; a violent story of a man seeking vengeance against Texas hillbillies, which is actually a novel manuscript sent to the gallery owner who happens to be the ex-wife of the estranged aspiring novelist; and two childhood friends and lovers who find each other and connect once again in New York City.

A Single Man was no doubt a good start for Ford as his first feature film back in 2009, but he has undoubtedly kicked it up a notch this time. There is a certain feeling that you receive during the watching of this film that gives you the sense that it’s going to be all right. That this story, no matter how it turns out, will satisfy you to the very core. This melodramatic tale sends chills down your spine at certain points during the film, the kind of chills that let you realize the sophisticated steps that were taken to preserve the integrity of this novel.
The characters of the film make for an enticing dramatic thriller that encourages the audience to root a certain way. Now bear with me, meta-characters are hard to explain when there is more than one story being told. Susan, who is played by Amy Adams, owns the gallery and receives a novel manuscript from her ex-husband Edward, who is played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who also plays Tony in the novel. His wife Laura in the novel, who is played by Isla Fisher and his daughter India who is played by Ellie Bamber both serve as a spot-on resemblance to Walker, who is played by Armie Hammer, and Susan Morrow’s real daughter, who is played by India Menuez, in the non-fictional story outside of the novel. Lastly, Michael Shannon offers up his talents as Detective Bobby Andes within the novel along side Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ray Marcus. Phew! Did you get that? I know that’s a lot to digest, but they will all make sense once you watch.

There is a lot of excitement that comes along with this scary country road evil thriller that makes for an understandably interesting response at the end of this movie. If I had to give my two cents about the movie, I’d say that it’s one of, if not the best film this year. Everyone can talk about La La Land all they want, and please, for heaven’s sake don’t let me be misunderstood. I loved that movie too. Amazingly I got through the first part without leaving the theatre and actually ended up enjoying the musically themed love story. Unfortunately for La La Land, Nocturnal Animals is just that much better.