Entertainment

REVIEW

'Nocturnal Animals' review: Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal will seduce you in feel-bad movie of the year

By Jim Slotek, Special to Postmedia Network

Entertainment Review

Nocturnal Animals

4 stars

  • Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney
  • Directed by: Tom Ford
  • Written by: Tom Ford
  • Duration: 116 minutes

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Many filmmakers have been accused of “style over substance.” Tom Ford – who is also a billion-dollar fashion mogul – would seem a particularly vulnerable target with his film Nocturnal Animals.

To me, that’s like giving a duck a bad review for quacking. Ford, whose film-within-a-film displays a gift for inventive narrative, does indeed spend half his movie showing us a world of shallow people and values, awash in great clothes, material possessions and bereft of self-awareness.

He spends the other half on the other end of the social scale, pointing his camera straight down the maw of human darkness.

Taken very loosely from the 1993 Austin Wright novel Tony and Susan, Nocturnal Animals introduces us to Susan (Amy Adams), a meticulously put-together gallery owner in a loveless marriage with a philandering financier (Armie Hammer).

In the middle of her angst and suspicion, Susan receives a package in the mail, which turns out to be the draft of a novel from Edward, her ex-husband of 20 years previous (Jake Gyllenhaal).

Entitled Nocturnal Animals, it’s the brutal story of a family man named Tony (Gyllenhaal again), whose family is brutalized on a lonely stretch of West Texas road by psychotic lowlifes. His quest for revenge brings him into contact with a grizzled lawman (Michael Shannon) with no more effs to give, and together they go after the chief psychopath (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).

Susan’s compulsive readings of the book are interspersed with flashbacks to her regretful past with Edward, and sad snapshots of her present. Soon it becomes apparent that the anguish presented in the book is a metaphor for their own past.

The film’s message – about the universality of pain and being trapped in circumstances of our own making – isn’t exactly feel-good. But it comes in starkly well-shot wrapping and some narrative loose-ends that are actually good discussion-fodder.

Ford’s second film, after 2009’s A Single Man, isn’t for everybody. But it’s an impressive writing/directing turn from a pop cultural figure determined to prove he’s not a one-trick pony.

Nocturnal Animals opens in select theatres Nov. 18 and expands to other cities throughout the fall.

Twitter: @jimslotek

JSlotek@postmedia.com