It’s violent and it’s sad and it’s dedicated to her.
Tom Ford directs a stunning and tragic physiological thriller which follows the story of Susan (Amy Adams) and ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). Nineteen years after their breakup, Susan receives a manuscript from aspiring author Edward who has used her and their relationship as inspiration for his chilling and terrifying novel. Susan is a successful curator for an art museum, but she is desperately unhappy in her job and unhappily married to Hutton Morrow (Armie Hammer) whom she met towards the end of her relationship with Edward.
Amy Adams is as fantastic as we’ve come to expect, delivering a chilling performance as she reacts to the horrific events in the novel as if they were happening to her. And in a way, they are, Edward wrote this book with her in mind. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the dual roles of a young Edward and the protagonist in Edward’s story, Tony. Tony is caught up in a horrific crime, which he is helpless to stop which draws an obvious parallel to the real-life reason Susan ended their relationship. He was too weak for her. Too weak to be a writer. His resentment of that is evident. Michael Shannon plays the cop in charge of Tony’s case, Bobby Andes, and he plays the role with such complexity and depth and he’s a perfect foil for Gyllenhaal’s Tony, who is equally as good.
Tom Ford cleverly uses the narrative to follow Susan as she reads the novel, which is interrupted with flashbacks of her relationship with Edward. These flashbacks are used to draw parallels between Edward’s novel and his relationship and his feelings towards Susan. From Edwards point of view, the novel he has written is self deprecating and yet it is horrendously creepy from Susan’s perspective.
Ford delivers masterful parallels between the story and reality. It leaves the viewer to make up their own opinion on Edward’s reasoning for writing such a disturbing piece. Is it so he can express his own shortcomings in the most tragic of ways? Is it revenge on Susan for leaving him? Is it both? Or is it even something more sinister? The subtleties in the story leave space for interpretation and we’re never clear on Edward’s motivations. What we do know, is that it’s incredibly tense and gripping.
Ultimately, Nocturnal Animals, also the name of Edward’s novel, is a story about revenge which is why it makes for such terrifying reading for Adam’s Susan and compelling viewing for us. It’s a gripping, edge of your seat, psychological thriller.