Comfortable and Furious

Nocturnal Animals

The opening imagery in Nocturnal Animals was not merely a shocking punch to the eyeballs, nor a garish tribute to someone like David Lynch. It was a flesh fair of the absurd, and dual lens into the stunning, but unhappy gallery owner, Susan Morrow. This opening gave some the validation to immediately hate, walk out, or choose to not appreciate of this really strange film. Nocturnal Animals is the second film directed and written by Tom Ford and is based on a novel written by Austin Wright. Nocturnal Animals is a film about the Past, the Present and the Fiction. This Fiction is so stunning that it overwhelms and totally immerses the movie audience. I will try to avoid spoilers as much as possible as this is a film that needs to be seen unfettered by my review.

Nocturnal Animals was a film about love, betrayal and revenge. It was also a movie about deep personal reflection seen entirely through the eyes of Susan Morrow, played by Amy Adams. Susan was a West-Texan debutante, turned art gallery owner, one filled to the brim with faux-shocking images and sculptures that would have made a Warhol blush. Susan lived in what had to be a mansion worth over 8-figures with her high-powered Ken Doll businessman husband, Hutton Morrow (Armie Hammer) and she was unhappy. It’s not just her philandering trophy husband, but there was a deeper source of her despondency that will be peeled in layers as the plot bifurcates.

With the husband away Susan is surprised by an unexpected package containing a manuscript written by her 20-year estranged husband, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal). It was readily apparent that the novel was brilliant and Susan immediately become immersed, as did the audience, in the chilling story. The movie then brilliantly paralleled the story lines as Susan experienced flashbacks about her relationship with her first love. The fictional book became the movie as Susan’s mind’s eye, Edward was Tony Hastings in a story that was a father’s and husband’s darkest nightmare on that black, unforgiving highway.

Susan also increasingly sees herself in this story, vividly portrayed in two completely different worlds. The fictional naked and brutal acts of aggression became mingled inextricably with her own veiled acts of betrayal. The manuscript and its subsequent movie plot became a crescendo in her own mind, as emotions and memories come flowing back, laying bare her duplicitous behavior. Edward Sheffield was hurt badly, had been hurting for 20 years, and subsequently crafted a most devastating revenge.

Nocturnal Animals is an exquisitely stylish film that takes the viewer on a dark and harrowing journey through two totally different worlds. The cinematography and musical score were spellbinding, but the highest marks had to go to the across-the-board great acting. You expected great acting from Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal, but the supporting roles were where the film really excelled. Laura Linney was perfect as Susan’s overbearing mother, and Aaron-Taylor Johnson was one of the most terrifying and believable villains ever. The actor that totally stole every scene however, was Michael Shannon. In the movie Tigerland, Shannon was the Instructor who totally humiliated and terrorized Pvt. Miter in a ruthless demonstration of how to interrogate an enemy.

Michael Shannon played the fictional West Texas Sheriff Bobby Andes. He was a gaunt, joyless, chain-smoking, over-worked, underappreciated lawman. He was sick physically, but mostly he was sick of psychopathic punks like Ray Marcus getting away with crimes. He decided to do something about it. The scenes where Andes interacts with Hastings at the diner and then later with Ray Marcus at his redneck trailer are amazing. If you think Tommy Lee Jones nailed it in No Country For Old Men, then you need to check out this guy.

Nocturnal Animals is one of the best, if not the best film to hit the theaters this year. There is a lot of noise about Oscars for Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Michael Shannon, and I concur, especially for Shannon, but these things seem never to happen. Tom Ford has presented one of the most innovative and powerful films I have ever seen. The seamless mix of the Present, the fictional novel, and the Past via flashbacks is what makes this film work. Nocturnal Animals is a highly recommended 9.5/10.

Special Ruthless Ratings:

Rules for safe night driving in West Texas:

  1. Don’t ever get out of the car
  2. Don’t ever get out of the car
  3. Don’t ever get out of the car



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