Review: Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals takes the split-plot of a woman reading her ex husband’s latest book, in which we follow her reaction (and current blemished life status), and the events in the book are depicted on screen too. It’s a thought-provoking notion, and the movie starts off on the right pace. Although obvious early on the book’s story is a personal reflection, a way for Susan to understand to some degree where Edward’s head was at following their demise. The concern for me here was that the book’s narrative was far stronger than that of Susan to begin with, and it was not long before each passing scene nudged you into a different direction, making you lose sense somewhat on what was a fairly straight-forward plot to follow.

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Could have been a contender. Well, absolutely. The components are there. Tom Ford behind the wheel, Abel Korzeniowski pulling off another impacting score, Seamus McGarvey providing some vivid visuals. And then the understated Amy Adams, Michael Shannon in classic supporting form, as was Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Laura Linney’s one scene was an eye-brow raiser, and much more positively Andrea Riseborough’s all-too-brief appearance was one of the best things about the whole project. A huge question mark falls on Jake Gyllenhaal, somehow over-acting in both segments, he seems to be an actor (as good as he can be) trying too hard, and it is a shame this comes across on screen.

Tom Ford knows how to engage his audience, that’s for sure, only this time around our attention is often in the form of misplaced intrigue and a consistent feel of mild disappointment. I so wanted to like this movie, following the beautiful A Single Man, he had raised his own bar to lofty heights – but even without the 2009 film in the equation, his new picture still falls way short of the expected mark. If the director were to invite me to meet for dinner to have me give Nocturnal Animals a glowing review, I know that relationship certainly does not have as brutal a background as Edward and Susan going into it, but Ford would be left by himself in that restaurant to ponder on the quality of his second feature.

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