“Susan, enjoy the absurdity of our world. It’s a lot less painful. Believe me, our world is a lot less painful than the real world.”
Like most people, I know Tom Ford the fashion designer, not the screenwriter and/or film director. Well, he had just surprised me with Nocturnal Animals(2016), a movie he adapted from Austin Wright’s novel, Tony and Susan. Starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Micheal Shannon, Nocturnal Animals is a story within a story kind of movie.
Amy Adams plays an art gallery director who receives a manuscript called Nocturnal Animals, written by his ex-husband, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal), whom everyone in her current life knows little or nothing about. The manuscript tells the story of the violent and tragic fate of Tony Hastings and his family. We get to learn more about Susan’s (Amy Adams) past and current life as she read throught the novel and see how the novel is actually a metaphor for the relationship between Susan and Edward.
Frankly speaking, I was deeply affected by this movie, not so much for the literal representation of violence in the story of Tony Hastings, but more on how much I can relate with Susan and Edward’s story.
Susan and Edward met when they were grad students, the former is a cynical Art Student while the latter, a sensitive, aspiring writer. In the beginning, she was attracted to him because of his sensitivity which, ironically enough, became the reason why she grew to loathe him and ended their relationship. Susan eventually divorced Edward for the charming, alpha-male type, sleazeball called Hutton. Susan’s present life with Hutton is aesthetically beautiful but superficial and lack substance while Edward’s novel is emotionally disturbing. As she delved deeper into the novel, she is finally confronted with the reality of her unhappy marriage with a cheating husband and empty luxurious life. The novel can be seen as Edward’s revenge on Susan, but to me, it seems more like him showing the measure of cruelty Susan has imposed on him.
There are some scenes that feel a little pretentious (too perfect, too high fashion-ish) but overall, it’s a very well-directed, well-paced movie with fantastic acting especially by Jake Gyllenhaal and Micheal Shannon.
Like Enemy (2013) and Arrival (2016), two great movies that I get to watch this year which coincidentally starring both Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal, Nocturnal Animals is one of those movies that you’d enjoy discussing about with your film-lover friends.