When a woman receives a chilling novel from her ex-husband her life is changed forever.
It turns out that fame and fortune isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Susan Marrow (Amy Adams) has everything she could ever want; her own art gallery, a husband rich in both power and good looks and a fortress of a home. But when the art expert receives a novel in the mail, that all changes.
The chilling first draft is written by her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), someone she admits she never truly believed in.
As Susan delves deeper into the violent thriller it becomes clear that Edward is exacting his revenge on her in paper form. She comes to regret losing faith in him and begins to question everything she holds dear. Is this really what she wants? Is she even happy? Is there any life left in her second marriage?
But Susan can’t stop herself from reading on, learning more about Edward and his deep-rooted pain. He was always so nice and gentle in the past, yet his novel is so intense. Edward has channeled his misery at the breakdown of his marriage and created a fictitious world where his pain is clear to for all to see, so raw, so volatile.
When Susan comes to the end of the symbolic revenge tale she takes stock of her life and realises it isn’t what she hoped for. Edward’s novel seems to almost bring her back to life while simultaneously destroying her. Is it too late to rewrite her path, or has her chance at happiness gone forever? Did it ever exist at all?
Nocturnal Animals is directed by Tom Ford the notable fashion designer and so I was intrigued to see how his artistic flair would translate on screen. The result is captivating. The movie is split into two parts; the first where we get a glimpse into Susan’s life at present with flashbacks to her former life with Edward, and then the second part shows scenes from his violent thriller. This really draws you into Edward’s story. You experience it chapter by chapter, just as Susan does.
Somehow Ford has managed to capture the feeling you get when you start a new book that you cannot put down, that you daydream about when you take a break from it, wondering what the characters will do next. With one Golden Globe award win and nine BAFTA nominations here’s hoping this won’t be Ford’s only debut into the movie industry.
Amy Adams brings her all to the role and you see the transformation in her as the movie progresses, as she comes to realise that the person she is pretending to be is a smokescreen to hide her true self.
Then there’s Jake Gyllenhaal. He appears both as the ex-husband and Tony, a character in his novel. His heartbreak is so believable, it takes your breath away. Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays his role to perfection. He has come a long way since the days of Kick Ass and now has a Golden Globe for his role in Noctural Animals to prove it.
Michael Shannon is also a big highlight of the movie playing a surly cop hell-bent on helping Tony exact his revenge in the story.
Nocturnal Animals is thought-provoking and shocking. It isn’t an easy watch but that doesn’t mean that you should avoid it. The violence is part and parcel of the narrative and without it the story would lose its depth. Take a leap of faith and I’m sure you won’t regret it.
By Ruth Walker