This film is a hauntingly dark and very emotional thriller.
Icy, cold, and beautifully sophisticated Los Angeles art gallery owner Susan (Amy Adams) appears to have everything… An enviable job, a beautiful home, and a drop-dead gorgeous husband However, Susan is riddled with insecurities as she suspects her husband Walker (Armie Hammer) of having an affair. Despite her affluence and friends Susan is unhappy and lonely.
One day, unannounced, the manuscript of a novel arrives on her doorstep. It’s written by her ex-husband Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal), a struggling artist she left many years ago. It has been 19 years since Susan broke it off with him, and she hadn’t heard or seen of him since then. It’s bit unusual for her to receive a book from him totally out of the blue. While her husband is away on one of his business trips, she settles down to read the book. Tony has called the book Nocturnal Animals, a reference he had for her inability to sleep at night.
The novel’s tale is of revenge, rape and murder, brutal and in your face and it’s directed wholly at Susan. While it’s obvious it’s a work of fiction, it’s violent and horrific. The book’s story line, dramatically played out as a “film within the film” is the vicious, unsettling Texas tale of Edward (also Gyllenhaal), who while on a road trip with his wife and teenage daughter (Isla Fisher and Ellie Bamber) undergoes an extremely traumatic event.
The family encounters a trio of dangerous rednecks who ooze menace throughout a sustained and terrifying experience on a remote dark road in the middle of nowhere. No need to go into any detail as to what happens here — other than the menacing turns much, much worse, but only towards the two women.
Occasionally, we cut back to Susan reading the book, taking off her glasses and trembling. This story is really affecting her and ensuring another sleepless night.
“It’s violent and sad and he’s dedicated this to me?” she whispers, shocked.
Tony’s manuscript has been unequivocally written not only as a revenge tale but also as revenge in real life to Susan for her abandonment of him.
There is a stand out performance from Michael Shannon, as the hard-nosed detective who has to investigate the case, while also dealing with his own terminal illness.
Stylishly directed, smartly written and superbly acted, this is a hauntingly dark ‘payback time’ tale exerting a powerful emotional grip. The final scene is breathtaking.
Nocturnal Animals very cleverly, but never confusingly, shifts between the two storylines (the actual film and the novel being acted out) to provide an unexpected and modern noir classic. It’s a compelling film that you will lose sleep over
ROK’S RATINGS: 5 out of 5 glasses of bubbly. It’s brilliant!
What genre of movie is your favourite? Do you enjoy emotional thrillers? Is this movie one you would see?
We love hearing your stories. To write for Starts at 60 and potentially win a $20 voucher, send your articles to our Community Editor here.