Nocturnal Animals Will Keep You Up Nights

No, really. With his sophomore film (following A Single Man), fashion icon/filmmaker Tom Ford shakes his audience to its collective core. When it comes to thrills, chills and surprises, there is no escaping Nocturnal Animals.

The story was not clear to me upon first view of the preceding trailer. However, after absorbing the film’s first act, confusion faded away to fascination. Within the traditional three act structure, a trio of unique worlds is explored in rapid-fire chronological jumps. The story begins in the film’s present, wherein artist Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) has fallen into a rut of self-disappointment. Though she has become a regarded and wealthy talent, her personal life leaves much to be desired.

Susan’s life changes forever when her ex-husband Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal) re-enters her life. The two have neither seen nor heard from each other for over a decade, reconnecting via instant message/email when Edward decides to send Susan the text of his latest novel (the film’s namesake). Susan is shocked but flattered, eagerly settling into bed to read, sheltered by her stunningly-decorated, post-modern bunker of a home.

Once begun, however, the novel reflects to Susan distinct similarities to her broken relationship with Edward. She becomes increasingly paranoid and disturbed…

While initially jarring, the back-and-forth between each of the film’s three worlds (Susan’s present, her past with Edward and the story of Edward’s novel) is on the whole exhilarating. Much like Pulp Fiction, the well-paced transitions from world to world make the general picture all the more impressive. Possibly my favorite element of the film is the exceptionally bent performance of Michael Shannon as Sheriff Bobby Andes, a pivotal supporting character in Edward’s novel.

Through the generosity of BAFTA New York, I was able to get a look at this magnificent film two days prior to its theatrical release on the 18th. In attendance at the event, held at the Regal E-Walk Stadium 13 & RPX, were writer/director/producer Tom Ford and three of the film’s talent, Ms. Adams, Mr. Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. All four were quite openly appreciative of each other and gracious in taking about eight questions from the audience.

Left to Right: Tom Ford, Amy Adams, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Michael Shannon. Image by BAFTA.org (http://www.bafta.org/new-york/our-events/screening-qas/nocturnal-animals).

I asked the third or fourth question, saying “Is there any chance you all might collaborate again?…because that would be awesome!” Both the panel and quite a bit of the audience laughed, with Mr. Ford replying that they’d surely like to find another such opportunity. Mr. Shannon followed this with “There’s always the sequel,” which the audience found even more amusing. When he went on to ask with tongue in cheek “Isn’t it supposed to be a romantic comedy?”, Mr. Ford replied to the effect of “Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a romantic comedy starring Michael Shannon.” A round of applause followed – I could not have been more pleased with the domino effect reaction to my question.

In conclusion, if you’re up for a fascinatingly-disturbing experience, this is the film for you. Judging from the Oscar buzz surrounding, Nocturnal Animals represents the second in a sure-to-be-lengthy body of work for the great Tom Ford!

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