Directed by: Tom Ford
Written by: Tom Ford
Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Ellie Bamber, Armie Hammer
Reviewed by: Brad Williamson
I’m unsure what Nocturnal Animals is chasing, and it’s definitely chasing something, because though it never catches it there’s a pervasive urgency throughout the entire film as though, moment by moment, it’s working toward something. The problem that the viewer soon realizes, however, is that this something is never going to be achieved or realized, so the urgency, tension, and masterful acting becomes anticlimactic and, ultimately, boring.
Amy Adams is great as always, but her role here is quite small. Gyllenhaal and Shannon are both spectacular, as well, which saves the film from being a disaster, but there’s not much more good to say. The film lacks vision, relying on intense post-modernism to trick the viewer into thinking its shallow structure is actually deep and insightful. Sure, there are some powerful sequences, but they’re drawn out and made unimpressive by Tom Ford’s heavy-handed and unsuccessful direction.
As an homage to David Lynch it has its moments, but it’s not nearly strange or powerful enough to embrace this identity. Instead of being confusingly enticing it devolves into a clunky mess of cliched storytelling. The only thing setting it apart from an episode of CSI is the chemistry between Gyllenhall and Shannon.
As a unique film with a purpose of its own, it can barely stand without falling over. The meta-story style has worked before, so we know it can be done, but it fails miserably here. Neither yarn is well woven and both feel incomplete. If you’re not yelling at the screen to tell the characters they’re all morons, then you’re obviously not watching their actions; they’re either despicable and deserve no sympathy or desperate to the point of disbelief. It’s difficult to enjoy a movie that tells you to like and empathize with unworthy protagonists.
Freckled with hints of promise, Nocturnal Animals fails to deliver. The acting is wonderful, but it’s not enough for me to recommend the film. You probably won’t hate it, but you won’t enjoy it either. Not recommended.