Tom Ford (Writer/Director)’s “Noctural Animals” is far-and-away my favorite film of 2016 (at least so far). It’s a Must-See and deserves an Academy Award nomination. It’s brilliant, creative, intense, suspenseful, has great acting, and you will be thinking about it long after you’ve left the theater. (It is, however, violent.) The screenplay is adapted from the novel “Tony and Susan” by Austin Wright. It reminded me of Sam Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs” with Dustin Hoffman, only it’s even better!
Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is a rich LA art gallery owner married to Hutton (Armie Hammer), some type of wall-street tycoon. Hutton is having business problems and they are going broke. Their marriage is obviously in serious trouble. Interactions between them are superficial and emotionally-stilted. The marital tension is like a cold, thick fog, seeping into both of them. Hutton is leaving on a business trip, so Susan will be spending the weekend alone.
Susan’s ex-husband from about 20 years ago, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal) has sent her a proof of a novel he has written that is about to be published soon, entitled “Nocturnal Animals,” which he has dedicated to her. Since Susan has nothing to do on the weekend, she starts reading it.
The movie is essentially three films in one, seamlessly integrated. One is about Susan’s current life, another about Susan and Edward’s life together before they split up, while most of the movie is the book, “Nocturnal Animals,” brought to life on the screen. The book tells the story of a happy family of three – Tony Hastings (Gyllenhaal), his wife, Laura (Isla Fisher), and their teenage daughter, Helen (Ellie Bamber) – just starting out on a road-trip vacation in West Texas. They are driving at night when they get run off the road by three very aggressive and scary guys, led by Ray (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). I can’t reveal what happens after this, but not only is it a terrific story in and of itself, but the plot is also, at least to some degree, a symbolic representation of Edward and Susan’s earlier relationship.
Some of the scenes are fantastic, the film moves along at a nice pace, and you won’t need to get a double latte before you see it in order to stay awake. Quite frankly, I can’t even find a flaw in it!
“Nocturnal Animals” is a “Beast!”