Developing a narrative through an exquisite aesthetic-driven storyboard, Nocturnal Animals demands recognition through its perspective and audience-led visual study.
The film sees director Tom Ford’s second piece of work as director, following from 2013’s similarly provocative A Single Man. An unsurprising strength considering Ford’s previous experience, the progressive fashion from characters is juxtaposed between the two film’s settings: a sophisticated, superficial Los Angeles against a rugged and stylistic West Texas. This allows Ford to creatively shine as he brings out each environments atmosphere through character personality and each individual colour scheme.
“an introspective and elegantly thought of film like ‘nocturnal animals’ is rare”
With a premise of Susan (Amy Adams) having received a package containing a novel proof from her estranged ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal), a plethora of flashbacks explore the distant connection that leads to their eventual breakup, and also a fictitious exploration in an alternative timeline. One might worry that with the large number of flashbacks, it may introduce mundane revisited feelings and a lack of cohesiveness; this, Nocturnal Animals completely avoids, and provides an extremely effective piece of cinematic charm. Smooth cuts between scenes detailing the hypothetical past and present, ever shadowed by a mournful (and slightly pretentious) Amy Adams, help us to understand the emotion and scrutiny of her life and the events leading to the day we witness.
The interactions we see between Adams, her colleagues and friends bring the subtle allusion that they are merely mandatory interactions which she experiences and derives no pleasure; from overall apathy towards her current husband’s actions, her career choices forming from malice and inability to sleep, she seeks the escape she once herself escaped from 19 years ago; her ex-husband, who appears in the Ford-esque style we could expect at the very end of the film. An introspective and elegantly thought of film like Nocturnal Animals is rare in the sense with its ability to seamlessly stitch the important parts of film together, and pair everything up perfectly. With only mild spoilers, Gyllenhaal’s appearance and subsequent acting help elevate his purpose in the movie and this brings a certain distance between Adams and her past.
“the interactivity ensures a tense and fast-paced drama”
The score, beautifully composed by Abel Korzeniowski, parallels the driven aesthetic that switches between an acutely pianistic LA and highly-strung West Texas. Memorable and at the forefront of many of the films scenes, Ford relies on minimal, subtle dialogue to push his cinematographic vision across and allows the audience to study the body language, emotion and depth of these characters. Gyllenhaal is the star of the movie, where appearing only in memory and novel, acts two different characters in two very different situations; it is this perspective that drives the movie forward, and with Ford asking the viewer to understand how the flashbacks fit together, the interactivity ensures a tense and fast-paced drama even though the film is not quick at all.
Certainly an intense, thoroughly interesting and unique film, Nocturnal Animals is a fantastic sophomore for a further aspiring director Ford. A vision that is formed from the basis of his previous experience shines bright in this story, and helps capture the audience to study the entire frame at any one time.