Miista Reviews: Nocturnal Animals by Tom Ford
I'm so impressed by you, Tom.
An icon in the fashion world and an award-winning filmmaker has returned to the director's chair with Nocturnal Animals.
Semi-spoiler alert, this movie doesn’t leave you skipping with joy. It opens with a graphic sequence in slo-mo of dancing women. It’s a lot to take in: they are all naked, plus-sized and seemingly joyous about it. I found the scene a bit forced but remained in my seat. Good idea, considering that it is one of the more innovative and satisfying movies of 2016.
Since Single Man it's been 7 years and the life of Tom Ford has been on a steep upward curve. He has had a son, opened 100 stores for his Tom Ford brand and a few years ago came across a novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright.
Here's when things went up a notch.
Ford loved the book so much that he bought the rights to film it. We know he was serious about it because there is not a single Tom Ford product in it. As he explained in The Seattle Times.
“I want people to take me seriously as a filmmaker, and so I didn’t want it to be an ad for Tom Ford designs. It was just — no.”
The fashion design side of his life may be partly responsible for his impeccable eye to detail but it's Tom's narrative skills that make Nocturnal Animals an art form, using Lynch (Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway), Haneke (Funny Games) and possibly even Spielberg (Duel) as influences.
A stellar cast always helps as well. We start with the character called Susan played by Amy Adams.
Amy plays a very successful art gallerist Susan, who is feeling depressed and dissatisfied with her life choices. Though Susan lives in the archetypal dream house in L.A and her day-to-day reality seems to be flawless, we get hints throughout that inside she lacks fulfillment. When out-of-the-blue she receives the manuscript from her ex-husband Edward, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, she examines her past and her choices.
Gyllenhaal not only plays the ex-husband but he's also a character of Edward's novel. The narrative of the movie comes from Susan reading the manuscript. You're able to see their relationship through her memory of it while she’s reading the book.
She becomes haunted by the novel which is titled after the affectionate nickname Edward once gave her: Nocturnal Animal. But it turns out to be a violent revenge tale written to express: this is what happens when you let people go, this is what you've done to me. And here is what happens when the weak guy decides to get tough. Susan broke his heart in the past by leaving him for another man and by declaring he didn’t have the right facets to be a successful author – that he was insecure and weak. Strangely, the film allows you to feel empathetic and attratced to her. It would be easy to hate Susan, instead we feel her pain, her regret. She's a victim of throw-away culture, upbringing and her own insecurities.
Nocturnal Animals is also about the power of fiction. It's only the manuscript that got inside Susan's head. For the audience you were left rooting for fictional characters within a fictional book within a fictional film. I feared and felt for the characters within the manuscript as much as I cared for Susan.
The movie is a revenge tale, it's about pay back in the worst way. Combining love, art, loss and death together to create a dark story. But what Jake's character is getting out of it is more of a triumph than a win. Susan inspired Edward's story, inspired him to be a better writer but that was all. Him killing himself in the book is him killing himself off in Susan's life. They will never be and her regret is his ultimate revenge. What she's getting out of this is the gift of time to be able to reflect and sit with these feelings.
It’s a movie about ﬁnding the people in your life that mean something and not letting them get away.
Finally, Nocturnal Animals is a movie built out of suspense. Thanks to the atmospheric musical score written by Abel Korzeniowski and the power-duo from Edward's book: Michael Shannon as an archetypal lawman, a man of few words.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson is uperbly cast in the villainous role, and is both charismatic, charming and multi-dimensional. They both add to the strange, continuous energy of this thriller.
There are so many things that I admire in Nocturnal Animals, but nothing will sum it up better than the words straight from director's mouth:
"I want this film to achieve what I always want. That is to truly speak for itself."
Tom, I think you've made it.