Friday, 18 November 2016

I've Just Seen: Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Director: Tom Ford

The only part of Ford's film that didn't work for me was the opening titles sequence, which features very fleshy naked women swaying with abandon to music, with looks of defiance on their faces. While startling, the sequence jars with the rest of the film. We learn that is it part of an art exhibition launched by gallery owner Susan, played by Amy Adams, who is in a personal funk, dealing with a distant husband and questioning the importance of her work. She describes it as 'junk' at one point. The past enters her life when her ex-husband Edward sends her a manuscript, an American gothic tale which he has dedicated to her. The violent tale of revenge jolts Susan out her own world, forcing her to remember her relationship with Edward and the painful way it ended.

A Single Man showed that Ford was a master of style with film, and was adept at directing great performances from actors. Nocturnal Animals proves he is a complete filmmaker. The film looks wonderful, but not distractingly so, the performances are all great, especially Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and most impressive for me, the script by Ford is really, really good. He balances the moves between the three different storylines - present, past, and fictional - beautifully, connecting them through small details: a red couch, Susan's crucifix, even the casting of Isla Fisher. This pacing, aided by Joan Sobel's perfect editing, meant I was completely engrossed throughout the film. It also uses jump scares much better than many horror films do.

One could argue that the film is yet another story about violence against women that revels in the nastiness of its deeds, but I think it is attitude is much slipperier than that. The whole film is from Susan's perspective, with her reflecting on her feels about these things; even the dramatisation of Edward's novel is Susan's visualising of it. This aspect elevates the material beyond its pulpy origins into something more subtle and clever. Definitely one to see on the big screen.

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