A character writes a novel as a devastating act of psychological and emotional vengeance. As a writer by trade and a vindictive bastard by temperament, this is definitely my kind of film! Susan Morrow, played by Amy Adams, receives a novel written by her estranged ex-husband Edward Sheffield, played by Jake Gyllenhaal. The novel’s plot is an allegory for the relationship Edward and Susan had before Susan left Edward, a struggling writer, for Hutton Murrow, a successful businessman. Edward – via the novel – lures Susan into seeing herself as Edward once saw her, experiencing what she did to Edward from his perspective, facing the fact that her present life with Hutton is a sham, and longing to relive the relationship she and Edward once had. Susan, newly enlightened and eager to see Edward once again, invites Edward to have a drink. Edward agrees – and then stands her up! A bit bitchy, perhaps, but brilliant nonetheless.
As for the film’s direction, I thought that, overall, Tom Ford did a great job with the material. However, the first act had some stilted dialogue, awkward performances and redundant scenes. We got the message that Susan lives a superficial, emotionally bankrupt life the first three times; the fourth and fifth simply belabor the point. And I would have liked to have seen more from Adams in the final scene. Think Bob Hoskins as Harold Shand being driven to his death at the end of The Long Good Friday. We see Harold’s surprise and realization that he has stepped into a trap. And then things get really interesting, for the audience is treated to a bravura two-minute, dialogue-free performance from Hoskins. We see a variety of intense emotions play across Harold’s face – denial, rage, more denial, more rage, grudging admiration and, finally, stoic acceptance of his fate. Would that Ford and Adams had given us a similar reprise of the emotions that Susan has experienced throughout the film as the story came to a close.
Final thought – The names of the novel within the film and the film itself are both Nocturnal Animals, plural. Does that mean that Edward descends to Susan’s moral level in taking revenge upon her? Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech is not simply about suicide. It’s about suicide by way of homicide. Are both Susan and Edward nocturnal animals by the story’s end? Let’s discuss…
Rating System: The rationale behind the rating system can be found here. Scoring is color coded: Theme : Plot : Character : Dialogue : Acting : Cinematography
Nocturnal Animals 4: 4: 3: 3: 3: 4 IMDB