Posted Oct 04 2016

LFF Preview - Nocturnal Animals

Dir: Tom Ford

Starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon (he of the oblong face), Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Laura Linney, Michael Sheen, Armie Hammer, Andrea Riseborough

Tom Ford’s second film is stories within stories, movies within movies, behaviour within people. And often brutal behaviour, despite the milieu.

It starts in the stylish – obviously – but anodyne world of gallery runner Susan (a superbly brittle, removed Adams) who moves through an emotionally detached world of emotionally absent people (her husband Armie Hammer included it appears) full of first-world problems. And how not to handle them. The unexpected arrival of a novel manuscript from her ex-husband Gyllenhaal  - titled Nocturnal Animals and dedicated to her – awakens something in her as she reads it. She starts to see her ex as the nominal “hero” of the piece, a slice of East Texas noir that seems to reawaken her spirit (maybe even her sexuality) as she reads and – more importantly – visualises it.

Ford starts his film in her cold, aloofly designed world, and makes great use of Abel Korzeniowski’s remarkable score to create an initial atmosphere that is pure Hitchcock. But as Ford’s film progresses into the film-with-a film of her husband’s novel world, Ford moves into a whole other territory, that not only grips beyond bearable tension, but does what we were all were beginning to think was impossible these days – gets a great performance out of Aaron Taylor-Johnson!

And he is not alone. The cast, to a person are note-perfect, not matter which world they are flitting through – fictional or what passes for “real” here – none more so that he-of-the-oblong-face Shannon, as the cop with cancer. Delivering what is at least his third great performance of the year so far, we can seriously see this man finally landing that Best Supporting nod for his exemplary work here.

For Ford, this is anything but the difficult second movie. He expands on the talent he showed on A Single Man hugely here, stylistically mixing his method of story telling, brilliantly embracing genre, even touching on notions of the horror movie form at times, all the while drawing superb performances from an amazing cast.

On one level, it’s a film about brutality, in all its forms, from the physical aspects of such to the emasculation of a man in the modern world, to the way couples who fall out of love – or find a better offer – inadvertently brutalise each other. On another level, it’s partly a revenge movie – highlighted a bit too archly by a painting at one point. But such minor discretions are forgiven by an ending that is – yes - as brutal as anything that went before, even if you don’t quite notice it at the time.

One a side note – the screening we saw tonight was accompanied by Jake Gyllenhaal and his q & a afterwards. The man was smart, funny, delightful – all that. But he thinks it’s a hopeful ending. Jake mate – you are so fucking wrong on that one!

Nocturnal Animals can be caught at the LFF on 14, 15 & 16 October

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