Nocturnal Animals Review

Nocturnal Animals

I didn’t know who Tom Ford was until he started making films.

Which will surprise no-one who’s become accustomed to my wardrobe.

Not being a dedicated follower of fashion, Ford’s designer background was something of a mystery to me.

But his visual style is clear for all to see in Nocturnal Animals.

The opening credits are appropriate at this time of year, as they scared the jebus out of me.

Living fast and dying young has never seemed so attractive, but these shock and slack jawed awe tactics are familiar enough to anyone from the art world.

As well as me.

This is how we’re introduced to Susan Morrow, at the opening night for her latest exhibition and its disturbing theme.

Impeccably coiffed and turned out, Susan is more than a little miffed when her beau doesn’t show, though it hardly takes einstein to work out what this means.

As her second marriage flounders, Susan receives a manuscript from her not so long suffering first husband, Edward.

Being one of those romantic dreamer types, it’s taken Ed a long time to churn out that first book of his but, like anything worth having in this life, it’s worth the wait.

At least it is to Susan, who can’t seem to put the book down.

And as she reads her ex-husband’s creative endeavours, Susan starts to reminisce about their own romantic past and – in light of her somewhat frosty future – why she put her first husband down too.

Nocturnal Animals was one of the last films I saw at this year’s London film festival, and it certainly leaves an impression.

Unsurprisingly, it looks fantastic and the attention to detail Ford puts into how his films look give this and his debut feature A Single Man a very distinctive feel.

Costumes, sets and cinematography combine to create a forensically picture perfect world for his characters to inhabit, so it’s a shame when the same amount of detail isn’t paid to the actions of said characters.

To be fair, these highly convenient actions all take place in the fictitious world of Nocturnal Animals’ story within a story, and Ford does seamlessly weave together past, present and fiction.

But the manuscript Amy Adams’ character reads throughout is so unbelievable, it ended up taking me out of the story.

In a cinematic nutshell, Jake Gyllenhaal’s make believe character takes actions that no man ever would – and fewer men would ever believe.

Thankfully, the hulking presence of Michael Shannon comes along to own every scene he’s in as a world-weary sheriff, grabbing you by those perfectly cut lapels and forcing you to engage with this highly dubious narrative.

There are a lot of good things about Nocturnal Animals, from its visual language and terrific ensemble cast through to Shannon’s visceral on-screen energy.

Yet, it’s hard to escape the feeling that this is more Hollywood style over substance, dressed up in a Tom Ford suit.

Except for those opening credits, where the dress code is anything but formal.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

October 2016