Nocturnal Animals

Director: Tom Ford (2016) BBFC cert: 15

Tom Ford’s career diversion from fashion designer to film director goes from strength to sumptuous strength in this superbly confident psychological thriller.

Ford has tailored a smart and stylish affair of seamless precision, one you must luxuriate in it to appreciate the finesse of the cut and the fit. It provides aesthetic, intellectual and emotional thrills you will struggle to shrug off.

Five times Oscar nominee Amy Adams gives another flawless performance as immaculate gallery owner, Susan. While her husband is away, Susan receives a soon-to-be-published manuscript titled Nocturnal Animals, from her ex, Edward. As Susan reads the book, she is reminded of long hidden terrible behaviour.

Edward is played by Jake Gyllenhaal and though I’m occasionally underwhelmed by his presence in a movie, there’s no questioning the strength of this performance. Gyllenhaal also plays the role of the lead character in his novel, Tony. We see his dark, sad and violent story as a film within the film.

Tony’s family are brutalised while on a road trip through West Texas. He teams up with a local sheriff to hunt down the good old boys responsible. As Detective Bobby Andes, Michael Shannon is hard smoking, slow talking and always amusing.

Colin Firth was Oscar nominated for his turn in Ford’s debut A Single Man (2009) and many of the performances could follow suit. Laura Linney is sublimely sharp as Anne Sutton, Susan’s mother, nearly stealing the film in her only scene. Brits Michael Sheen, Andrea Riseborough and Aaron Taylor-Johnson provide strength in depth.

The score by Abel Korzeniowski is swooningly bleak and there is an extraordinarily bold and considered use of colour. The cool blues and glossy enclosed spaces of the Los Angeles art world are contrasted with the scorching rocky ochre of the vast expanse of Texas. Oscar nominations should surely arrive for production design and cinematography, respectively Shane Valentino and Seamus McGarvey.

An opening images of naked dancers begin a dialogue within the film of the nature of the artistic process. This conversation is based on the themes of exposure, vulnerability, pain and truth. They are central to the plot and are reinforced by the frequent mirroring of images and actors play dual roles. There is a pointed comment regarding critics who possess the power to destroy creativity, at no risk to themselves.

Careless viewers may scratch their heads at the final scene, but this is because Ford respects his audience and demands you pay attention to his beautifully bespoke tale of revenge.

@ChrisHunneysett

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