Film Review: “Nocturnal Animals” (2016) ★★★★★


How far a broken-hearted man would go to avenge separation and divorce from the love of his life? How else could he compare the pain, devastation and the emptiness of life she brings after killing through abortion the only memory of a happy life he used to have with her – his own child? Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal) writes a novel called “Nocturnal Animals” and dedicates it to the only nocturnal animal he had ever got a chance to meet in person – his ex-wife Susan.

After nineteen years Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) hears from her estranged ex-husband Edward through a little note and a manuscript he sends for her to read. After all, she has always been his toughest and harshest critic. Susan opens the book. As she turns one page after another, as she reflects the horrifying story he writes, she finally realizes what she had done to the life they had and the marriage she brutally ended. But that was just only the beginning of consequences of her actions she left helplessly to face, as she continues reading his novel “Nocturnal Animals” she rightly interprets it as a symbolic revenge…

The novel that she reads starts with an innocent road trip of Tony Hastings, his wife Laura and teenage daughter, India. A seemingly uneventful trip takes a violent turn where Susan and India were raped and killed by Ray Marcus and his friends Lou and Turk. Absolutely lost and devastated, Tony with the help of local sheriff searches for the murderers to make them pay for what they had done to his wife and child. But while Susan reads each page, she realizes that, it’s Edward through the book trying to communicate with her in the best way possible, comparing the damage she had done; an unborn child that she kills, or his impaired life is no better than what Ray Marcus and his friends did to Tony’s family.

As the story unfolds, you find Susan, a gallery owner, having a life pretty much she deserved. She is married to Hutton Morrow (Armie Hammer), who in between his business trips has an affair with another woman. She tells Edward once, “I am a cynical person. I love life to be structured. I am a realist. But you are the person who lives in the dream, in a world that I will never be a part of.”   And then he says, “When you love someone, you have to be careful with it.  Because you might never get it again.” Ironically or not, Edward was soon to be proved right…

Edward’s Nocturnal Animals soon appears to be the reflection of his life with Susan, where he cleverly describes her escape from marriage and desire of not wanting to fix it. The scene when Ray and Lou comes back after Tony, Tony hides in the wood. At that moment, Tony knew that if he follows what was right, he could have, most likely, saved his wife and daughter’s life, or to be killed. But by hiding in the woods, he preferred to remain in the dark, the same way Susan had done to their lives.

Nocturnal Animals is based on Austin Wright’s novel “Tony and Susan” whose dark relationship will grab you from the first moment until you want to watch it all over again. It’s powerful, haunting, extremely clever movie with the mesmerizing revenge story of a woman whose fate was decided the very moment when she takes the book to read. Susan is cold and heartless woman whose love for Edward was not strong enough to go through the problem they had at the time of marriage. It’s a story of a man who knew two things in life he could do best – to love Susan and writing novels.

However, the talent and creative mind had made him do the unthinkable – he makes Susan to look at her actions through his book. Tom Ford, who in my opinion is one of the best visionary filmmakers nowadays, smartly, wickedly and masterly adapts the screenplay by capturing only its juicy part with fashion, style and unique look, only someone with his caliber could have ever done. Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Jones’ performances will be one of the main reasons to make you re-watch the film again. But it’s Amy Adams who captures Susan in such a manner you simply can’t feel sorry for her – for any pain she had to go through in life or through the novel – after all, as per Edward, she was and is a Nocturnal Animal.

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