From the opening credits (which may turn some audience members off immediately), Nocturnal Animals establishes itself as something you’re not used to seeing at the movies. It’s a film with a story within a story that is ripe with metaphors and tension that sometimes succeeds while other times leaving you a bit disappointed and totally creeped out. Nocturnal Animals follows Art gallery owner Susan Morrow, a former Texas girl who now has a posh life with her rich and handsome husband played by Armie Hammer. One day Susan receives a manuscript entitled Nocturnal Animals from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) who she hasn’t seen in years. This is when the real fun begins as we see the novel come to life on the big screen as Susan takes in every word wondering if this story has an underlying message directed towards her.
The plot involving Susan’s real life and what she may or may not think the words on the page are trying to tell her doesn’t always click in Nocturnal Animals. Director Tom Ford throws some shocking images at you and also has a few plot lines that go nowhere pertaining to this section of Nocturnal Animals. The scenes in “The Real World” with Adams’ Susan unable to put down the book and beginning to question some of her choices in life is a distraction to the real show, which is the action leaping from the page. You’ll be wishing for Susan to ditch the art gallery meetings and get back to the story we care about in Nocturnal Animals.
What saves Nocturnal Animals from the awkward cinema director Tom Ford delivers to his audience is the standout dual performance of Jake Gyllenhaal playing Susan’s Ex as well as her vision of Tony Hastings, the main character from the book who is involved in a terrible incident that wrecks his life. Gyllenhaal does a fine job playing Edward, but as stated earlier that is not the exciting part of Nocturnal Animals. Gyllenhaal excels as the soft Tony who feels worthless and weak after dealing with a bunch of violent local boys. He shows fear, anger, despair as he delivers an intense performance that will have you wishing the incidents examined in the book was the only story you had to deal with in Nocturnal Animals.
Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance and the story told within the story may be enough to save Nocturnal Animals for some viewers, but as stated earlier there’s a chance director Tom Ford will lose audience members before the opening titles are done playing. The film also has an abrupt ending, which is realistic if you read into all the phycology at play in Nocturnal Animals, but could leave some people saying “That’s it?”. No matter what problems some critics may have with the unusual Nocturnal Animals, there’s no denying the gripping performance from Jake Gyllenhaal who makes a good portion of this film worth watching.
Overall, I give Nocturnal Animals 2.75 out 4 stars.
Read all T.M.’s reviews here–>Entertainment Now with T.M. Powell