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 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.
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.
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.