Slough Cooperative Film Society Slough Cooperative Film Society

The Society has been showing the best of world and independent cinema in Slough for 70 years

 

28th November 2017 DATCHET VILLAGE HALL

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

USA 2016 116 mins


Susan Morrow Amy Adams Director Tom Ford
Edward Sheffield / Writer Tom Ford
Tony Hastings Jake Gyllenhaal Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey
Bob Andes Michael Stanner Editor Joan Sobel
Ray Marcus
Laura Hastings
Hutton Morrow
Anne Sutton
Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Isla Fischer
Armie Hammer
Laura Linney
Music Abel Korzeniowski

It's been seven years since designer Tom Ford made a splash with his award-winning writing-directing debut A Single Man, and it's no surprise that his second film is just as exquisitely beautiful to look at. What's unexpected is the complexity of the storytelling. Adapted by Ford from Austin Wright's novel Tony and Susan, this movie has three sides to it: a romantic drama, a darkly personal odyssey and a freaky thriller. These elements kind of fight for the audience's attention, but they're sharply played and packed with intense emotion.

Nocturnal Animas poster

Set in Los Angeles, everything revolves around gallery owner Susan ( Amy Adams), who lives in a spectacular home with her banker husband Hutton (Armie Hammer), who's facing financial problems. Susan is shocked when she receives a manuscript by her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), who has finally finished his long-gestating novel. But as she reads it, she realises that their break-up inspired the story, and she pictures Edward in the central role as Tony, a man travelling through Texas with his wife and daughter (Isla Fisher and Ellie Bamber), who are kidnapped and brutalised by roadside thugs led by the unstable Ray ( Aaron Taylor-Johnson). So Tony teams up with jaded detective Bobby ( Michael Shannon) to track them down.

The film's central narrative is Susan's deeply internalised discovery of her own dark soul, which plays out both in her scenes with Hutton and figuratively in the fictional thriller narrative. All of these things take complex twists and turns that have vivid moral shadings. But of course the Wild West action element continually steals focus from the more understated personal drama. In this sense, Gyllenhaal has the trickiest role, or rather two roles, as the story's catalyst and victim. Meanwhile, Adams is strikingly transparent as Susan, engaging in jagged interaction with both Gyllenhaal's enigmatic Edward and Hammer's eerily heartless Hutton.

The toughest thing about the film is Susan's somewhat gloomy demeanour, which makes her tricky to sympathise with. It's a lot more fun to watch scene-stealers like Shannon gleefully chew the scenery. Taylor-Johnson delivers his best-yet performance as a wildly charismatic monster. And in just one scene, Linney delivers a knock-out turn as Susan's imperious mother.

Through all of this, Ford keeps the tone introspective and moody, and also ravishingly beautiful, using light and colour to both identify the various layers of the story and to weave them together in intriguing ways. So even if the action-mystery dominates the subtler scenes, the film remains a moving look at the impossibility of achieving happiness, love, success and redemption at the same time.

Rich Cline at www.contactmusic.com