Nocturnal Animals – Movie Review

The screenplay was very well done, the direction was perfect, the cinematography was spot on, the soundtrack was sparsely brilliant, the acting was superb, but when you get right down to it, I just didn’t like the story.  In the end, it is a simple story of cruelty, a hope for redemption and revenge told in a very elaborate manner.

Nocturnal Animals is a psychological thriller about Susan, a successful art gallery owner in LA who receives a manuscript from her first husband whom she left 20 years earlier.  The manuscript tells the story about a family with a teenage daughter whose vacation turns violent and deadly.  Reading the manuscript forces Susan to confront some dark truths about herself.  The movie is a “story within a story.”  A bulk of the movie plays out the story of the manuscript while mirroring back to Susan’s life – both past and present.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Susan’s first husband and as well as the father in the story.  There are couple of scenes where Gyllenhaal breaks down in the manuscript story and really shines.

Amy Adams plays Susan and is her normal, stalwart, amazing self, with the ability to express so much emotion with her expressions.  She could not have played the role of Susan any better.

But, to me, the true stand out performance was by Michael Shannon who plays the small town Texas sheriff trying to track down the killers in the manuscript story.  Shannon’s performance absolutely made this movie.  As I was watching Nocturnal Animals, I kept thinking that Shannon’s  performance reminded me of Tom Hardy’s performance in The Revenant in the sense that he was not necessarily a major character in the story, but his performance dazzled me.  I was thrilled when Tom Hardy got an Oscar nod for his role in The Revenant and I will keep my fingers crossed for Michael Shannon.

This movie is based on a book by Austin Wright called “Tony and Susan”.  It explores themes of love, revenge, redemption and cruelty.  In the style of Gone Girl and Girl on a Train, there are really no redeeming characters to get behind and rally for.  Call me old fashioned, but I like having more clearly defined good guys and bad guys.

Overall, it is an excellent movie, just not one that I enjoyed.


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