REVIEW: Why do people like ‘Nocturnal Animals’?

Never have my expectations come crashing down so fast as they did when I went to see Nocturnal Animals. First off, let me say, that Tom Ford was not on my radar as a Filmmaker. I had never seen A Single Man. I know Ford is a designer but I can’t tell you if his clothes are well-made, or comfortable to wear. Before Nocturnal Animals the only thing I could’ve said in reference to Tom Ford was, “I don’t pop molly, I rock Tom Ford’, thank you Hova. So with that being said, I really didn’t have much knowledge of Tom Ford’s work to compare this film with. After seeing this though, something tells me, that the man should stick to fashion.

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

Nocturnal Animals opens with a credit sequence set to a bunch of naked, overweight, red-headed women dancing in some kind of circus outfit. Weird to say the least, but believe it or not, that is the film’s peak, it works its way up, stops at the summit for suspense and after that sequence it takes the plunge down the visual rollercoaster, leaving you bewildered and a little nauseous. This absurd opening is one of the many things that Ford throws on the screen and refuses to explain. We are introduced to the Amy Adams, a visual artist of some kind, in a failing marriage.  She’s unpacking boxes in her new, lavish home, although devoid of any feeling or warmth, similar to the film itself. She opens a package, not before getting a papercut – which is treated as if it’s a major plot point – to see a manuscript sent to her by her ex-husband, titled Nocturnal Animals. From here, the story of the book and the story of Adams’ reading it run tandem to each other, with very little parallels.

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The problem with this film is that nothing feels as if it truly matters. There is no substance to Amy Adam’s character, there’s even less substance to the story she’s reading, which we see played out in large parts. I knew nothing about Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, except for the fact that he’s ‘weak’, something that is stated over and over again. There is a pivotal scene on a dark road in Texas, which I gather is supposed to be suspenseful; but it runs too long, lacks emotion, and is seeping at the brim with bad dialogue. There is no fleshed out female character, very early on I got the sense that Gyllenhaal’s storybook wife and daughter were just meant to be used as props, pretty-looking, redheaded props that Ford doesn’t even try to hide the fact that they serve no purpose other than to have their sexuality exploited for Gyllenhaal’s mental suffering.

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The real victim here, besides the audience, is Michael Shannon who, once again, delivers a stellar performance for a film that isn’t even worthy of it. God bless him. Nocturnal Animals is Ford’s attempt at an avante-garde thriller, but there is very little art, and even less thrills to be found here.

REVIEW: Moonlight

Okay okay okay, let’s talk about Moonlight. I know it’s been slow for the content on here but sometimes it takes a certain kind of film to make me drop whatever I’m doing in life and sit down to write about it. Moonlight is that film.  As a member of the black diaspora in America, the essential question of Moonlight is one that hits home: Who are you? or to quote from the film, “who is you?”. Who am I is an ever-present query we pose to ourselves. So often confronted with images and other peoples ideas of who we are that, the idea of cultivating our own sense of self is seemingly ever elusive. Moonlight follows Chiron, a young boy growing up in Miami in the war-on-drugs era, his mother is addicted to crack, and he’s grappling with questions of his sexuality that his surroundings leave him little time to ponder.

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Barry Jenkin’s takes all the factors and creates a character so real and fleshed out that it makes Boyhood look cute. This may be a hot-take, but plenty of black people, after seeing Boyhood, thought that boy was so lucky to be able to ponder such existential questions about his life! Don’t get me wrong, the Boyhood kid had it rough, but he never had to live in the ghetto, and his mother – for all her bad decisions – never abused drugs. But for all this talk about drugs and the ghetto, Barry Jenkins shows us that while the grit and dirt of the ghetto leaves little time to ponder one’s emotional turmoil, beauty and love can still be found there.

Moonlight

Beauty is found everywhere in Moonlight. Jenkins films the ghettos, the boarded up houses, the addicts, the needles, and the people that exist in this environment, with great care and a softness that can make it all seem pleasant to look at. And though we know there is nothing pleasant about it, we must deal with the images on the screen as they are. James Laxton, the Cinematographer on the film, is to credit for the stunning camerawork in the film. The camera is the film’s most powerful tool; it’s used to make you feel everything in the most visceral of ways, from the disorientation of a drug addict in need of a fix, the unsteadiness of open water when learning to swim, or the nerves of one’s first sexual experience.

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It is hard to say which factor of Moonlight shines the brightest: the cast (Mahershala Ali is brilliant, Naomie Harris needs no introduction), the score, the cinematography, and the direction are all doing their respective duties to the best of their abilities. But nothing distracts and everything works together quite beautifully. The film is a quilt, being stitched across space and time, across the entirety of Chiron’s life, and the viewer-to-character to connection is one that every film strives for, but few achieve.

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