Nocturnal Animals (2016)
Nocturnal Animals is a story within a story that revolves around Susan (Amy Adams) and Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). Susan is a woman in her late 40s and is an artist who is unhappy with her glamorous and materialistic life. When she was 20 she married Edward, an amateur writer, against her mother’s wishes and ended up divorcing him because she “wanted more” as her mother predicted. In the present, Edward sends Susan a book he has been working on over the years titled “Nocturnal Animals” and as she reads the story, she can’t help but recall her relationship with Edward and hopes to see him again.
Directed by Tom Ford (A Single Man), Nocturnal Animals is the kind of movie that, if you didn’t know any better, you would think was directed by David Lynch. For those of you that don’t know, David Lynch directs really weird and strange stories that have you questioning everything you watched by the end. In Nocturnal Animals, we experience 3 different stories all at once. There is the present day story with Susan as she analyzes her life with her husband Hutton (Armie Hammer) and how materialistic they have become. There is the flashback story of Susan and Edward and how they fell in love and how their married fell apart, and lastly there is the story of Edward’s book Nocturnal Animals which tells the suspenseful tale of Tony (also played by Jake Gyllenhaal) and his family.
This movie is gripping and tense throughout due to the telling of Edward’s novel. The story that surrounds Tony is tragic and mysterious and what I can describe as Hitchcock-like. This story alone is what carries the film and many will ask why was there need for the story that surrounds Susan, and I honestly can’t tell you. I’m sure there is plenty of metaphors and parallels between the story of Susan and the story of Tony, but I couldn’t really see them. Obviously, this is the kind of movie that will need multiple views to fully understand the connections, but on the surface, they aren’t apparent. I know Edward is trying to send a message to Susan after all these years, but I couldn’t tell what it was. However, this factor didn’t keep me from understanding what was happening on screen so don’t feel like this movie will be hard to follow. It is just difficult to make the connection for all 3 stories and why they needed to be told simultaneously.
From the opening scene (4 very large naked women dancing at Susan’s gallery), you can tell this movie is going to be weird and strange, and it doesn’t disappoint, however, as I sat through the tense scenes, I couldn’t help but feel like something huge was coming from the ending. I was anticipating a big twist and something to shock us even more than anything so far, but as the ending approached, and the twist was eminent, nothing happened. Don’t get me wrong, there is an ending to this movie and an ending that will have people talking and analyzing, but it sure was a big letdown from what the rest of this movie offered. I won’t spoil it here, but it didn’t make complete sense as to what it was trying to tell us. It was lackluster and let me saying “ok?” It was a disappointment after being invested the entire 2 hours into a story that was tight and gripping.
The major positives here are the kind that provide entertainment. As I stated before, this movie will have you entertained from beginning to end. Jake Gyllenhaal is diverse as usual as Tony and Edward, and the story moves along at a good pace around all 3 stories. Some of the time, I had trouble distinguishing present from past, but there was no mistaking the events of the book. This all-star cast has plenty of supporting roles for Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal, and I still am finding Michael Shannon to be a actor I love in everything he does.
At the end of the day, Nocturnal Animals is a strange and interesting movie that will have you ensnared from beginning to end due to a gripping story and plenty of great performances, however, its lackluster ending that keeps me from really wanting to see this movie again to fully understand everything I saw. It sure is chalk-full of metaphors and things to analyze, but the question is, do you really want to? I recommend it with a grain of salt. Co-starring Isla Fisher, Laura Linney, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Sheen, Armie Hammer, and Karl Glusman.
6/10 Stars – With a Hitchcock-like thriller surrounded by a metaphorical drama, Nocturnal Animals is 3 stories in 1 that will both shock you and leave you confused.