Tom Ford is back in the directing chair after a seven year hiatus and boy it seems he’s changed ever since. Based on the emotions Nocturnal Animals sets out to explore, its seems as if Ford is letting us in on a very hidden side of him, unleashing an inner darkness onto the screen. With Nocturnal Animals, Ford also decides to take a much more experimental approach to the project, playing with structure and blending reality with fiction.
From the opening shots, Ford places you in a feeling of unease as he provides some rather disturbing imagery for a prolonged span of time. Its somewhat sickening but effective and although it might seem entirely unrelated, everything in this film is there for a reason. Nevertheless, those opening credits also function in the same way the Coen bros’ prologue to A Serious Man did, perfectly setting up the mood for what’s to come. From that point on, you’re sent off on this dark trip that traverses reality, fiction, and how they relate to each other.
The problem with the fact that we’ve got two story going on simultaneously and mutually complementing each other is that they’re not equally good. One is clearly better than the other and therefore makes the other one look worse. Suddenly the original way of storytelling becomes a crux for one of the storylines and although its not as if one’s great and the other’s terrible, the difference is noticeable enough for you to be more interested in one story than the other.
Now, the first story follows Amy Adams and her life seemingly deteriorating. Adams is really good in this film, but I wouldn’t say she’s necessarily great as she’s shown in other projects. By far the most interesting aspect of this story was the way her art was involved and specifically what it meant. But besides that, its the ongoing fictional story that bleeds in and out of reality that’s Nocturnal Animal’s bright spot.
The reason the fictional tale works better is not only because of its room for exaggeration when it comes to certain events and emotional responses but the fact that everyone who forms the story’s cast is on their A-game. Not only does Jake Gyllenhaal who we’ve come to expect to deliver a grand performance every time deliver on his promise, but both Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson surpass him. That doesn’t devaluate Gyllenhaal’s performance in any way, but it just goes to show how great the other two are. If the year ended now, both Johnson and especially Shannon would be on that Best Supporting Actor category for me. So there’s the act that everyone giving it all they’ve got and then there’s the traumatic emotional response that Ford is able to conjure by telling this tale.
Like his last film, Nocturnal Animals looks luscious. Not only does McGarvey’s visual imagery as DoP transmit the film’s sense of emotion with every shot, but the production and costume design in this film is also stellar. This extraordinary combination helps make every shot even more powerful and further develops a character’s being based on the way the look, something that clearly derives from Tom Ford’s background in the fashion industry.
Nocturnal Animals is a fascinating study of darkness and how evil acts perpetuate. Although the main story isn’t nearly as interesting as the fictional, its still good, meaning the fictional must be elevated to state of great. Everyone gives in a top-notch performance, but its Shannon and Johnson who steal the show with every scene they’re in. Nocturnal Animals dark and disturbing, definitely intriguing, and carries a sense of beauty throughout that oddly fits perfectly with the darker themes being explored, making a statement about the beauty of that which is horrifying.