Friday, June 2, 2017

Movie Review: Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Nocturnal Animals (2016) written and directed by Tom Ford

Susan (Amy Adams) manages an avant-garde art gallery but is unsatisfied (and somewhat unsuccessful) at her work. She's also in her second marriage, to a businessman who is more interested in business than in her. As if she weren't unhappy enough, in the mail comes a manuscript from her ex-husband Edward dedicated to her and titled "Nocturnal Animals," an unflattering name Edward had for her. He credits her with giving him the strength and inspiration to finally write a novel (they broke up twenty years before). The novel is about a family that is run off an isolated west Texas road by three young redneckish guys. Things become very violent and horrible in the novel and Susan starts seeing parallels to her life--especially to the bad things that have happened and that she has done. It's both depressing and heartbreaking for her and for viewers.

The movie begins with a lot of unattractive naked women dancing, something vulgar and off-putting and exploitative that doesn't make any sense. By the end of the opening credits, it's clear they are part of a new art exhibit at the gallery Susan manages. She's okay with that but what upsets her is that her husband never showed up for the opening night. So she's a bit self-centered and off-balance in her priorities. Reading the novel could be a turning point for her (she relives a lot of the hard, unpleasant things she's done) and the ending leaves viewers to make up their own minds about where she will go from there, i.e. whether she will improve her life or not.

Since the movie is so meticulously constructed (by paralleling Susan's current story, her flashbacks, and the novel's plot) I found the ambiguity of the ending unsatisfying. The actors are very good but the storytelling vacillates too much between being very subtle and very obvious. The movie contains some food for thought but doesn't deliver a satisfying full package.

Not recommended.

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