Nocturnal Animals is a harrowing account of loss, revenge and justice; a set of entangled tales in which we see the catalytic devastation of heartbreak. In this – his sophomore film – Tom Ford flourishes with a completely engrossing tale which exudes suspense and fulfills our expectations with meticulous attention to detail and beautiful cinematography.
Ford seamlessly takes us between ‘reality’, and the fictional narrative of a manuscript; into the desolate Texan desert where a family unintentionally become the subjects of a sadistic, brutal and ultimately fatal affair. True to the title of the film, the tale is dark, primal, and in pursuit of retribution, the characters become animalistic in their desire for justice. The parallels between fiction and supposed reality become clear during flashbacks where we are presented with a failing relationship; portraying heartbreak and loss which mirror that experienced in the manuscript. This synchronicity is emphasised through the cinematography, with subtle juxtaposition and mirroring of images which highlight the relationship between the narratives.
One may think that fashion designer Ford must be comfortable with the superficial world, yet whilst he presents a stylistically beautiful piece of work, there is an underlying critique of hyper-materialised society. In the modern ‘reality’ full of excess and luxury wherein its inhabitants live in isolation from authenticity; the bleak greyness, cold atmosphere and deep unhappiness which permeates its characters highlights the emptiness of the purely superficial life. The manuscript, even as a fiction, seems to hold more realism than the overly materialistic setting in which the film begins.
The entire cast’s performances are totally encapsulating, and are such that any conscious awareness of the film’s fictitious nature is almost non-existent. Jake Gyllenhaal is doubly impressive in his portrayal of dual characters, both as the writer and main character in the manuscript. And deeply disturbing, psychopathic villain Aaron Taylor-Johnson, is almost unrecognisable in a drastic change from his doe-eyed, baby-faced debut performances.
This film is quite simply a triumph in every sense of the word.
Image: Nan Palmero; Flickr.com