2.5 out 5 stars
Susan Murrow’s (Amy Adams) life is like a work of art that has been created by a tortured artist. On the surface there is a beauty in her work, marriage and home that merely masks her tormented past and soul. As an art curator in Los Angeles, she lives an enviable life, but it is crumbling away underneath her. While her husband and business partner, Hutton (Armie Hammer), is away on a business trip, she gets a book manuscript from her ex-husband, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal). As Susan begins to read the story called Nocturnal Animals, she is confronted by the dark and violent tale of a family who is brutalised on their journey across West Texas. Her emotional response to Edward’s book comes from deep within her as she realises that the tale is a reflection of the relationship she left with Edward 20 years ago. As she confronts the realities of her life, Susan must work through the demons of her past while she experiences the disturbing truths of Edwards work of fiction.
Nocturnal Animals is both gratuitously confronting and dramatically beautiful at the same time, which makes it almost impossible to turn your eyes away from the screen. The fashion designer turned film director Tom Ford (A Single Man) has an artistic flare for the visual that is draws you into his story, but never allows the audience to get comfortable with what is being portrayed. The performances by Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon (Midnight Special) are exceptional, which prove why they are some of modern cinemas most celebrated actors. Their ability to exist and work within both worlds that are being portrayed is mesmerising, even though these characters do lack much appeal. Tom Ford’s interpretation of Austin Wright’s novel is handled with the craftsmanship of a seasoned artist. The interweaving of the beauty and the tragedy forces the viewer to stay engaged, even when the scenes go cross the line of comfort and appeal. Ford’s artistry cannot be denied, he has an exceptional eye for the dramatic.
This is where the audience must make a choice of what they are comfortable with being entertained by. Because the film occurs within the realm of the art world, the use of nudity and violence have been taken to an extreme that will confront the senses from the opening credits. The grotesque nature of both of these elements and their assault on the senses are similar to the experience of walking into a contemporary art museum. The participant needs to determine whether they want to view the art or avoid all together, there is no middle ground with Ford’s work.
Nocturnal Animals makes it impossible to avoid these artistic vehicles for the sake of telling this story. The character development, the back stories and the performances are engrossing, but the application will be difficult for the average viewer to stomach. This is a work of art that has a brilliance to it, but will only be accessible to a select few who can endure the aggressive assault on the senses.
Reel Dialogue: Is there such thing as an unforgivable sin?
“What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Luke 18:27
Nocturnal Animals confronts this idea by looking at the relationships between husbands and wives. Tom Ford weaves a story that centres on that very question, how far is too far when it comes to being able to forgive the ones you love. Interestingly, this is at the heart of the message of the Bible, too. Not just the question of forgiveness within marriage, but more importantly between God and mankind. Regardless of what we have done against God or others, the God of the Bible is willing to forgive those who are willing to seek his forgiveness.
- How can God forgive sins? (Isaiah 59:1-2, Ephesians 1:7, 2 Timothy 2:13, 1 John 1:9)
- Why should I believe that God will forgive me? (Psalm 23:4, Matthew 24: 11-13, Luke 15:1-10)