The Moving Image film tomorrow, NOCTURNAL ANIMALS has a startling opening and this gives the viewer some idea
of what is to follow. Tom Ford is a stylish director and there are many
memorable images. Three stories are skilfully woven together and each
has its own style.
Susan (Amy Adams), is a disillusioned art dealer lives in a
glass-cage modernist LA house with her handsome creep husband, Hutton
(Armie Hammer). Financially, the couple are faltering; emotionally, they
are falling apart.
Out of the blue, Susan receives a package,
a manuscript from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), which
promptly gives her a paper cut, significantly drawing blood. A
sensitive soul whom Susan apparently abandoned in ‘horrible’
circumstances, Edward used to call his wife a ‘nocturnal animal’. Now
that sobriquet has become the title of his as-yet-unpublished novel,
which he has dedicated to her: a visceral, anguished tale of brutal
assault and ugly revenge in which a family are run off the road by
rednecks in rural west Texas, with horrifying results. This story is
shown through Susan’s imagination as she reads the manuscript one
weekend when her husband is away. The third story is of the romance
between Susan and Edward, their marriage and subsequent separation.
Expanding confidently from the chamber piece confines of 2009’s A Single Man,
Ford makes an impressive fist of mimicking the mood of Hitchcock, the
skewed reality of Lynch, the grit of the Coen brothers, and the
obsessive attention to detail of Kubrick. Seamus McGarvey’s widescreen
cinematography perfectly captures the contrasting environments of the
film’s sinewy, intertwined settings, from the reflective surfaces of
Susan’s LA life, to the more human hues of her past with Edward, and the
cruel vistas of his own neo-noir narrative.