In recent years we’ve all fallen in love with Jake Gyllenhaal again – at least I certainly have. He has proven time and again that he is one of the best actors working today, from his unsettling Lou Bloom in Nightcrawler, to the devastated Billy Hope in Southpaw, he is capable not only of delivering an outstanding performance, but also displays an impressive and largely unparalleled versatility. In Nocturnal Animals, certainly a challenger for my film of the year, he is once again breath-taking.
Tom Ford’s adaptation of Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan is sublime, blending real and created worlds to a single homogenous piece of real beauty. Susan (Amy Adams) is a gallery director in Los Angeles who is starting to fall out of love with her work and husband, and has found herself in an unhappy lethargy, mixed unfortunately with insomnia. In the post arrives a manuscript from her ex-husband (Gyllenhaal) with whom she has not spoken in over a decade. With her husband away for the weekend, and desperately needing something to fill her time, she reads the novel which has been dedicated to her. The film we have been watching is already a dark and utterly engaging piece, but with the introduction of the book, dramatized as it is read, Nocturnal Animals becomes truly astonishing. Gyllenhaal plays the lead in the neo-noir thriller which Adams reads over the course of the film, and also her ex-husband in flashback, imbuing both with heart and a palpable connectedness that exists between an author and character.
“Tom Ford’s picture is not only beautiful, engaging, and immersive, it is also beyond clever”
Had either story been an individual feature, it likely would still have been a fantastic film, each world being created with remarkably comprehensive depth. As a single picture which questions the real vs created worlds which we all inhabit and to who and what we owe responsibility, it is brilliant.
The soundtrack, scored by Abel Korzeniowski, is reminiscent of the golden age thrillers, resonating through your bones with an intense emotion, yet surprising lightness. The cinematography is hugely impressive, able to capture the spirit of each distinct story whilst creating a unified tone that is Nocturnal Animals.
Tom Ford’s picture is not only beautiful, engaging, and immersive, it is also beyond clever. The parallels between character and story are detailed just enough to be followed, but some of the metaphor and subtlety of his work will leave you thinking for an awfully long time. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ll have to watch Nocturnal Animals a lot more than once to even begin to understand just how intricate and intelligent the film is, but I’m certainly not complaining about such a task.
Image: Tom Ford