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Nocturnal Animals


Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Michael Shannon, Isla Fisher, Ellie Bamber, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Michael Sheen, Andrea Riseborough, Jena Malone, Karl Glusman

Director: Tom Ford

Ford's second movie, following A Single Man seven years ago, is an offbeat film noir centering on Susan (Adams), an artist/photographer in her late thirties, who long ago deserted her first husband Edward (Gyllenhaal), an aspiring writer, and is now saddled with her second, a philandering businessman (Hammer).

Out of the blue, Edward sends her an early print copy of a novel he's written. Its violent contents keep her up at night, recounting as it does the story of a man, Tony (Gyllenhaal again), who, driving at night with his wife and daughter (Fisher, Bamber), is forced off the road by three unpleasant, arrogant and aggressive characters who, after violent verbal exchanges, drive off with his family, leaving him to be abandoned.

Staggering back to civilization, his story is believed by a perceptive, if terminally ill sheriff (Shannon), who launches a murder hunt after the wife and daughter are found stripped, raped and murdered.

Deeply affected by the story, Susan attempts to re-connect with her ex.

Unsavoury but often gripping, the film is nicely shot in noir style by Seamus McGarvey, its characters appropriately alienated from their surroundings, and has good performances, especially from Shannon and from Taylor-Johnson as the leader of the desperadoes.

I could, admittedly, have done without the prologue of gargantuan strippers, which seems to have little to do with the rest of the film, and, although you can appreciate why the director wants to end the film the way he does, it remains dramatically rather unsatisfactory.

Are there hidden meanings to the storyline in the novel? That's for you to decide. In an all-star cast, Sheen and Linney are only in it for a scene apiece, but both do a good job.

David Quinlan

USA 2016. UK Distributor: Universal. Technicolor.
116 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 01 Nov 2016