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Nocturnal Animals Review

Updated on February 23, 2017
Nocturnal Animals poster
Nocturnal Animals poster

Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals is a psychological, neo-noir thriller written, directed, and co-produced by Tom Ford. The leads of the film are Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams. Gallery owner Susan Morrow is handed a manuscript given to her by her ex-husband. The manuscript is actually based on the novel of which the movie is based on. The film splits itself between two narratives in the real world and the novel.

The story is filled with violence and melancholy. Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) who is in a dead-end marriage is cynical and depressed. She threw away her happiness because of logistics. She focuses on her work to distract her from her husband's infidelity. The other protagonist Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal), is a calm, peaceful man who loves his family dearly. Unfortunately, he and his family run into three dangerous criminals who impose there wills on him and his family.

The movie has a considerable amount of frightening scenes in Tony Hasting's storyline which show the film's noir roots. One lengthy scene, features Tony as his family is harassed on a dark road. The scene shows how truly wicked human beings can be. It is uncomfortable, heartbreaking, and disheartening. You feel just as helpless as Tony—perhaps even more.The film is heavily fatalistic. As you watch, you would feel as if things were "supposed to" be this way.

Susan Morrow (Amy Adams)
Susan Morrow (Amy Adams)

Tony and Susan

Cleverly reflected in the film's marketing poster, the film is exceptional on how it handles its dual narrative. Interchangeably, the film tells its modern story with its protagonist Susan Sorrow and its manuscript/novel story with its protagonist Tony Hastings. The plot is carefully written in a way that avoids confusion. We see Susan Morrow receive the manuscript from her ex-husband (Edward). Whenever she reads the script, the flashbacks start. Each flashback sequence ends with a reaction of Susan. Due to skillfull editing, there are even moments in the film where we see Susan feel Tony's pain. Tony and Susan are connected even though they are in two different story spaces which is what makes the film exceptional.

Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) #2
Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) #2


Nocturnal Animals' roots in film noir is prominently shown everywhere. First, the cinematography is really dark. Amy Adams' makeup and wardrobe is telling. She wears dark colors and dark makeup (black eyeshadow and black nail polish). There are dark clouds, roads, skylines, and sunsets. The film is never too brightly lit and always has a underlying tone of sadness. The music is mysterious and somber. It's dialogue is bleak and memorable. It is meant to teach us to not be so pessimistic (even thought the film is heavily so).

Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal)
Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal)


The film highest points are driven home with performances by Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Michael Shannon. Amy brings Susan to life by conveying high amounts of emotion through her subtitle actions and stares. Jake Gyllenhaal brings Tony to life with every scene he is in. He portrays sorrow, guilt, and anger effortlessly. Michael Shannon plays Bobby Andres like a character straight from an old western and does it flawlessly. Overall, Nocturnal Animals is not a film you see if you want a pep me up. It is a film you see if you want an engaging crime story and psychological drama. If you want to think about humanity and the choices we make, then this is the film for you.


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      Thomas 6 months ago

      On some level, Nocturnal Animals is about the war between the link between morality and reality’s origin and the ability of that link. Alternatively, one can look at Nocturnal Animals as being about the moral need to end the duplication of cause, because that way the original cause has a right to become violent.