Fashion designer Tom Ford took audiences by surprise in 2009 with his first feature A Single Man. Elegant and restrained, the film provided lead actor Colin Firth with a vehicle for what is perhaps his best performance to date. Absent from the film scene since then, Ford reemerges with his latest, Nocturnal Animals, an ambitious and shocking experimentation in genre filmmaking.
The film follows Susan Morrow (Amy Adams), an art gallerist estranged from both her work and her philandering husband Hutton (Armie Hammer). Out of the blue, a package arrives at Susan’s door. Inside is a manuscript, titled “Nocturnal Animals” written and sent by her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) who she has not seen in almost twenty years. As Susan reads, the film enters the world of the novel as imagined by its reader. In the middle of the night Tony (Also Gyllenhaal) is driving across a West Texas highway his wife (Isla Fisher) and their teenaged daughter (Ellie Bamber). After being run off the road by Ray (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his gang, the three are psychologically tortured and then kidnapped. Later, Tony seeks the help of detective Bobby Andes (Played brilliantly by Michael Shannon) to take revenge on those who destroyed his family.
The two plots presented with the film are displayed in vastly differing styles. Susan’s, an elegant and flashy neo-melodrama. Tony’s, a sweaty, dystopian nightmare. The result is a devastating and vibrant piece of cinema. Most shocking is how much the film departs from A Single Man. Where Ford’s previous film was a quiet mood piece, Nocturnal Animals is a loud, heavily-plotted mind game. Nevertheless, the film is equally as powerful. With excellent performances by all, Ford has crafted a tragedy of such high order that the final moments will leave viewers reaching for breath.