Nocturnal Animals is a psychological thriller written and directed by Tom Ford and based on the 1993 novel
Tony and Susan by Austin Wright. Ford has made only one other film, (also an adaptation) 2009's
A Single Man. He comes from the world of fashion so it's no wonder that both films are visually stunning and full of detail.
The opening scene is extremely unique and exceptionally disturbing. As the camera pans out we realize we're in an art gallery run by Susan Morrow (Amy Adams). It's obvious that Susan in one unhappy woman despite her beauty, wealth, and success.
Her marriage to her unfaithful husband, Hutton (Armie Hammer), is deteriorating, and they have money problems. When Hutton leaves to go on one of his many business trips, Susan is left alone in her beautiful glass house and we can see how lonely she is.
Out of the blue, she receives a manuscript for a novel written by her ex-husband, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal), along with an invitation to dinner during his upcoming visit to Los Angeles. The manuscript is titled Nocturnal Animals which was Edward's nickname for Susan. He has also dedicated the book to her. She at first finds this strange because their marriage ended bitterly and devastated Edward.
The story follows Tony Hastings, (also played by Gyllenhaal) who is driving through Texas along a dark deserted road with his wife, Laura (Isla Fisher), and his daughter, India (Ellie Bamber).
They are suddenly forced off the road by three local super bad dudes, Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Lou (Karl Glusman) and Turk (Robert Aramayo)
After toying with Tony and his family, Ray and Turk take off with his wife and daughter, leaving the helpless Hastings alone with Lou who forces him to drive to an abandoned stretch of land where it quickly becomes obvious to Tony that Lou means to kill him. Somehow he manages to get away and runs to a farmhouse for help.
The police come, but are completely useless. Eventually Tony meets Detective Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon) who is assigned to the case and who agrees to help Tony bring these bad guys to justice no matter what it takes.
We then return to Susan who finds further evidence of her husband's extramarital affair. As she resumes reading the manuscript, we cut back to the screen where the story of Tony continues to unfold. I don't want to say any more about his story because it will be a big spoiler.
But as far as Susan, in between her reading the manuscript, we see flashbacks of her life when she and Edward first get together to the displeasure of her mother (wonderfully played by Laura Linney). Mommy thinks Edward, who wants to be a writer, is way too weak for her daughter and will never achieve his goals. Susan ignores her mother's advice and marries him anyway. It doesn't take long for her to see that mother was right.
What's so brilliant and unique about the film is that it's an allegory. The loss Edward experienced at the end of his marriage to Susan is equal to the loss Tony experiences in the novel.
The last scene in the film is so visually beautiful as well as so profoundly sad thanks to the brilliant acting of Miss Adams and the equally brilliant direction of Tom Ford. I am giving this film, which opens in theaters Friday, November 18th five bagels out of five. Don't miss it.