Nocturnal Animals review – A perfectly styled psychodrama

Tom Ford’s second feature seduces us into a world where style is very much a part of the substance

Nocturnal Animals


It’s just under seven years since the release of Tom Ford’s award winning directional debut A Single Man. Does his skill in creating the perfectly fashioned cinematic frame overstay its welcome in this second film, an adaption of the 1993 Austin Wright novel Tony and Susan?

For some people, the answer will be a resounding ‘yes’. But for me, the precise and detailed use of cinematography (beautifully lit and composed by Seamus McGarvey), production design, costume and editing all perfectly cohere to create a breathtaking atmosphere with multiple layers of dramatic subtext.

Three separate narrative threads intertwine and play off of each other as we explore the complex and intriguing relationship between Amy Adams’ wealthy but troubled art gallery owner Susan Morrow (mesmerising and awards worthy for the simple action of reading) and Jake Gyllenhaal’s would-be writer Edward Sheffield.

Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) contemplates her life as a wealthy art gallery owner
Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) contemplates her life as a wealthy art gallery owner

One storyline dramatises Edward’s fictional account of a family man’s journey into hell. The haunting and slightly surreal world created by Ford and his team put me in mind of both David Lynch and the great cinematic collaborations between William Friedkein and Tracy Letts.

Michael Shannon’s outstanding performance as Detective Bobby Andes fits perfectly in this heightened world. To say his performance is understated would be an understatement, the humanity in his character’s soul leaping out of the screen through his mesmeric eyes.

Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon) squares up to Lou (Karl Glusman)
Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon) squares up to Lou (Karl Glusman)

The Hitchcockian undertones to the fabric of the film can be almost exclusively credited to Abel Korzeniowski’s rich and lavish score. With its minimalistic repetitive driving force helping to ramp up the dramatic tension combined with some of the most heart breaking themes, surly this soundtrack is a dead cert for award season nominations?

This film will be divisive, but the moment the credits finished, all I wanted to do was watch it over again.

  • Directed by Tom Ford.
  • Written by Tom Ford. Based on the novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright.
  • Featuring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael ShannonAaron Taylor-JohnsonIsla FisherEllie Bamber and Armie Hammer.

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