by Kevin Muller
There are certain movies that are so soaked in mystery that talking about them in any kind of form would be a lapse in judgement. Tom Ford’s new film “Nocturnal Animals” is that very type of film. The trailer for this film doesn’t really show what this thing is about. It is refreshing to actually go into a movie without knowing over 50% of the plot. What Ford has given us though is something both thought provoking and emotionally raw.
This best brief summary of the plot is that Amy Adams plays Susan Morrow, a broken woman who is married to a wealthy businessman who is cold to her feelings and needs. Her life wasn’t always so grim and lifeless. There was once a time when she was full of optimistic and youthful energy. While in the present, she owns a ritzy art gallery, but back when she was in her 20’s she dreamed of being an artist who would live off her passion. Her boyfriend at the time, Tony, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, was also an artist, his passion was in writing. Though she would never admit it, she loved him but was steered to her current miserable life style by her ice cold socialite mother. She dumps Tony and never looks back.
Amy Adams, who is one of today’s most reliable actresses, can do dark and brooding just as well as she can do happy. Ford paints her face with make up in a way that makes her seem as if she is a vampire to the world. Adams’s skin lacks the usual radiance it possesses and she looks sinister at points during the movie. When Susan receives a special gift from Tony, you see part of her youthful energy come back into her. She is full of regret because she knew she let love slip away for comfort. Most of her performance is reacting to what Tony has given her.
This is really Gyllenhaal’s film since he does play two parts. Both parts are very similar in emotions and needs. These are two men who are slaves to their fears. It isn’t until one of these characters runs into Ray Marcus that his courage is put to the test. Ray Marcus is played brilliantly by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Johnson just won the Golden Globe for his supporting work here. It is a performance that isn’t showy, but does gets under your skin. It has to do mostly with the way he uses his bright blue eyes to seduce his victims. This is a hunter, who has selected his prey with Gyllenhaal’s character. He plays the role as if he is a cat playing with his prey. Ray is also an incredibly skilled liar that you almost buy into his stories of innocence.
As with 2009’s “A Single Man” Ford has such a sharp eye for detail. It shouldn’t shock anyone since he is much respected fashion icon. The cinematography is beautiful and the imagery, at points, is nerve racking and oddly compelling. He does try to go too far off the deep end at points, but visually it is still a hell of a ride to go on with him. His screenwriting abilities are a bit obvious but when he does hit a point home, especially when Gyllenhaal warns Adams’s Susan about her choice, he really knocks it out of the park. The movie is a bit of a downer but never lies or tries to soften the truth of the decisions we make…especially the ones we regret.
“Nocturnal Animals”, unlike Adams’s other movie “The Arrival,” isn’t for everyone. It is dark and extremely depressing at points. Within these two traits lies a cautionary tale with life lessons that one will never forget, especially Susan. Ford is one impressive director who shouldn’t take another seven years to produce another film.