Nocturnal Animals Movie Review
Revenge is served many times over in Nocturnal Animals, a dark, somber and often intense drama-thriller that cuts deep but fails to twist the blade at the end, or at least that’ll be the perception by simple dumbasses such as me who don’t care to read into the nuanced layers that may or may not make Tom Ford’s sophomore entry a great movie.
Nocturnal Animals is actually two stories, one about a depressed art exhibitor (Amy Adams) who has realized her beautiful marriage is a hollow sham, and who experiences uncomfortable emotions when she begins to read the manuscript of a novel sent to her by her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal). That novel, titled Nocturnal Animals, is the other story, about a man (also played by Gyllenhaal) who seeks revenge after his wife (Isla Fischer) and daughter (Ellie Bamber) are kidnapped and murdered.
The easy-to-understand and more entertaining—for us simpletons—portion is the novel Nocturnal Animals, a thrilling, Hitchcockian tale that is as breathtaking and exciting as anything you’ll see all year. Every scene bristles with energy, especially as Gyllenhaal and his family are terrorized by their attackers (led by an almost unrecognizable Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Michael Shannon also shows up to steal a few scenes.
And thankfully, this story-within-the-story takes up a fair amount of the film’s runtime.
The broader story is more complex. A revenge tale in a completely different form, the Amy Adams storyline’s purpose is harder to grasp and significantly more nuanced. While cinephiles may eat this segment up and appreciate the deeper meaning of it all, the average moviegoer will find it much less fascinating and even distracting from “the good stuff.” When Ford pulls back from the novel’s depiction to follow Adams around, you pretty much just want him to get back to the murder plot storyline. Furthermore, the second ending doesn’t land with the power Ford intended, which in turn means the movie doesn’t land its lethal blow.
Nocturnal Animals is a tale of two… tales… and one works significantly better than the other. The problem is that the “other” needed to work just as effectively for the entire movie to be worth it, and it simply doesn’t. Nocturnal Animals is a movie that is almost great, but instead is merely okay.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.