Director: Tom Ford
Cast: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Ellie Bamber, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Michael Sheen, Andrea Riseborough
Runtime: 1 hr 57 mins
Rating: M18 (Nudity)
Released By: UIP
Official Website: http://www.nocturnalanimals.com.sg
Opening Day: 1 December 2016
Synopsis: From writer/director Tom Ford comes a haunting romantic thriller of a divorced couple discovering dark truths about each other and themselves.
This reviewer knows a story like this too well. To fit into the mould of what is widely accepted as a “civilised” life, we put up fronts and speak untruths. Deep down inside, the darkest, most unkind, and even saddest secrets are screaming to be unveiled. Is there beauty in life? Yes, but there are lots of ugly things which are quietly making its presence felt in the background as well.
Fashion designer turned film director gives you something to look at in the film’s opening scenes – the artistically shot sequence features plus sized, fully frontal nude models gyrating provocatively. Yes, it is probably meant to make viewers uncomfortable, but it also sets the tone for what’s to come.
We are introduced to Susan (Amy Adams), a classy and refined woman who works as an art gallery curator. Her seemingly perfect life is interrupted when her ex husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) sends her a manuscript chronicling a series of violent and tragic events.
The novel follows a peaceful man is on a road trip with his wife and daughter. They run into three troublemakers, and after some rough exchanges, the two ladies are raped and murdered. Wrecked with guilt, the man becomes depressed finds enough strength to pick himself up again to seek revenge.
And what’s a drama without a cheating husband (Armie Hammer), a violent criminal (Aaron Taylor Johnson) and a cynical but wise detective (Michael Shannon)?
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Venice International Film Festival, Ford’s latest work is visually mesmerizing. This is not surprising, given his last film A Single Man (2009) starring the gorgeous Colin Firth and Julianne Moore was similarly beautiful to look at. What will connect with viewers sanitised to the urban life is how undercurrents run strong beneath the veils of exquisiteness.
With cinematography by Seamus McGarvey (We Need to Talk About Kevin, Anna Karenina) and music by Abel Korzeniowski (Battle for Terra, WE), the film is no doubt a sleek piece of work that doesn’t fall short on sophistication and style. Colours are boldly used, and the camera loves every single cast member’s striking features.
The film also works because of its brilliant cast. Adams (American Hustle, Big Eyes) has come a long way since making her film debut in 1999’s Drop Dead Gorgeous – the actress has matured nicely and we should be expecting to see her nominated for acting accolades during the awards season (good things have also been said about her performance in Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival). Gyllenhaal channels the angst that we are familiar with (Nightcrawler, Southpaw) to good use here, while Shannon delivers yet another underrated performance which we can only hope gets recognised by the juries. Taylor Johnson is surprisingly good as a foul mouthed antagonist, and minor roles played by Michael Sheen, Laura Linney and Isla Fisher are brief but memorable.
When the 116 minute ends with an expectedly lonesome scene, we can’t help but feel empty and destitute about the state of human relationships.
(Sophisticatedly packaged, this frustrating heart wrenching film aptly explores the dark side of human nature)
Review by John Li