By Elizabeth Thornton, reviewing from Vue Piccadilly
From the stunning shots of Amy Adams, all bright red hair and icy blue eyes, to the sweeping desert panoramas, every inch of Nocturnal Animals is as stunning as you'd expect from a man who owns a billion dollar fashion label and turns up on set in a suit (“It’s a uniform”, Tom Ford told The Guardian.)
But despite being intensely, unashamedly beautiful, Nocturnal Animals isn’t exactly easy to watch. Not that you’ll ever want to look away – it’s utterly gripping. It’s just that it’s very, very intense. It’s Vogue meets Nabokov, with some Hitchcock thrown in for good measure.
It’s Vogue meets Nabokov, with some Hitchcock thrown in for good measure.
Amy Adams plays Susan, a gallerist who’s spent a lot of time and effort curating her dream life in L.A., surrounded by a bunch of wealthy arty types. “Our world is a lot less painful than the real world”, a purple-blazered Michael Sheen reminds a teary-eyed Adams at a party (turns out this glamorous world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be). Fashionistas eagerly await the next iPhone release; plastic-surgery is taken too far. Materialism is fun, but also absurd, implies Ford, perhaps a little self-consciously (he’s admitted that Susan is “autobiographical” in an interview with The Telegraph.) These people might be making art to put up on walls, but here, life is also art: it’s something to be moulded and transformed.
Susan then gets a mysterious package from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), which turns out to be a manuscript of his novel. She begins to read, and the plot plays out for us on screen – and next to Susan’s insular bubble, this fictional world is violent and visceral. Tony, also played by Jake Gyllenhaal, takes his wife (Isla Fisher) and daughter on a road trip in this subplot – but things become nail-bitingly tense when they encounter a bunch of deranged hillbillies in a scene so unsettling it’ll be far creepier than any gory horror film you might have watched this Halloween.
Adams’ performance as Susan is perfect: she’s just the right mix of materialist ice queen and childlike charm. Jake Gyllenhaal nails the scorned ex-husband struggling with some pretty deep-rooted masculinity issues. But the star performance is Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the redneck psychopath. It’s no wonder he found the role so “disturbing” to play, as he told Yahoo Movies.
If you’re worried this film is all style and no substance, don’t be – it’s really, really not. Yes, it looks great, but it burrows deep beneath the surface too.
You’ll love this film if you love smart, beautifully crafted filmmaking.
See this film with art lovers. Anyone who appreciates a clever flick. Definitely not one to watch with a spurned lover.
Unleash your inner Nocturnal Animal with a drink at Cecconi's in Green Park (maybe just the one) amongst the beautiful people of Mayfair.
After the film, head to the Royal Academy and indulge in some art. We recommend the Abstract Expressionism exhibition currently on show: it’s got a similarly dark, troubled vibe.
Nocturnal Animals is out now. Get times and tickets here.