Nocturnal Animals (2016) – “Enjoy the absurdity of our world. It’s a lot less painful.”
Fair warning, there may be spoilers ahead.
This certainly isn’t the movie you should watch if you want a light-hearted story at two in the morning. I made that mistake. Though I knew right off the bat it wasn’t going to be light, it was still a little too heavy for my tired and German measles-infected brain. That said, I couldn’t stop watching. The whole thing was just so haunting and thrilling and absolutely captivating. The cinematography was great to look at and the soundtrack was perfect for the mood of the film.
It all starts with self-proclaimed cynic Susan, played by Amy Adams. Susan is a rich gallery owner who seems to never be satisfied with her life. She is currently wed to Hutton, played by Armie Hammer, who is no stranger to being born wealthy (which I assume is the source of Susan’s riches). After her gallery’s opening she receives a package containing the manuscript of ex-husband Edward Sheffield. She is both disturbed and intrigued by the package and its accompanying note from Edward that it eventually affects her daily life. It seems she can’t get the story of a family who falls victim to a violent attack out of her mind. So much so that she even opens up to her assistant about regrets and life choices and even sees the face of one of the attackers in the baby monitor app that one of her colleagues shows her (which seriously freaked me out) leading to her dropping and cracking her colleague’s phone.
As Susan gets more and more invested, we also get to see parts of the manuscript come to life in a way. We cut from scenes with her to scenes with the family in the manuscript. The father, Tony is also played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who also plays Susan’s ex-husband Edward. Tony is taking a road trip with his wife and daughter, played by Isla Fisher and Ellie Bamber. It gets late and the family has a run-in with the type of people you most certainly do not want to have a run-in in a dark, empty, desert road. The villains shove their car to the side of the road with their own car, resulting in a flat tire. They offer to fix it, and fix it they do. But with a catch. When I thought things couldn’t get any worse they kidnap Tony’s wife and child and force him to drive to this deserted place and dump him there. You know this isn’t real. I mean it’s fiction in both our world’s and Susan’s. But that didn’t stop my heart from racing, wondering what the hell’s going to happen to them.
Tony stumbles and walks all the way to a house where he’s finally able to call the police. Detective Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon) is assigned to the case and he discovers the bodies of Tony’s wife and child. They were murdered and raped. Ray (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is the bastard who led the gang and did all of this. So believe me when I say you will feel satisfaction when Tony shoots him dead in the same shack he hurt his family in.
Now, the one question I can’t seem to answer is: Why did Edward dedicate his book to Susan? Because he did. Was it to prove to her that he could write a quality novel? Is it a story that parallels their own? Was she the inspiration?
Edward: When you love someone you have to be careful with it, you might never get it again.
The more Susan reads, the more Tony hurts. Is it the same in their own sad love story? The more Susan grew up, the more she wanted things, things that Edward could never provide which eventually led to her falling into the arms of another man and leaving him. You just hope that all of these will come together in the end when Edward and Susan make plans to see each other.
The whole movie had me on the edge of my seat and in chills. And the ending will definitely leave you with a lot of questions and in search of someone to theorize and speculate with. Tom Ford did a spectacular job in writing all of these intricate stories together. And Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams were amazing in all their roles. But it left me with one burning question. Why am I so affected?