I love movies. I love writing about them. Hope you like reading what I write.
My first review starring Amy Adams of the week. For some reason, I don’t think it’s going to be my last.
Nocturnal Animals is a drama written for the screen and directed by Tom Ford, which like I said stars Amy Adams as Susan, a New York socialite and artist who is unhappy with her life as she decides to read the latest work of her ex-husband Edward, played by Jake Gyllenhaal.
That, “in the real world of the story”, is the plot synopsis. Amy Adams reads a book and reacts to it. Yet through an extremely well put together cinema narrative, we see this intercut with the story of the book itself along with flashbacks of Adams’ character’s shared past with the author.
It’s evidence of one of the most miraculous properties of cinema. Separately, these stories range from boring to pretty good, but somehow through their merging, Ford creates a fascinating movie.
This all works because we see the world through the eyes of Susan. We read the book and we almost hear her thoughts as we the words interact with her. That is something I find rarely works in a story. When they have a character read the “fictional” side of a story, they often have to shoehorn reality into it to cram in drama. Or, if you’re David Lynch we make neither the dream nor the waking world distinguishable.
A conversation we hear early in the “real” narrative at one of Susan’s parties stuck with me throughout. One of her friends tells her that it’s alright to feel sad despite all of the good things in her life, since “it’s all relative”. Of course the film is all about the relative nature of emotion. The story within the story is considerably darker and more harrowing, but the emotions felt by Susan are as real as if she was there, because we as an audience go there. Amy Adams, by the way, nails this performance.
Speaking of that inner story, Jake Gyllenhaal is very much the star in his character’s own novel. As Tony, his family is completely torn apart as a group of red-necks kidnap his wife and daughter and he must try to enact justice.
We are constantly reminded that this story is not real, like the dream in The Wizard of Oz or the entire plot of Our Town. We don’t care though. Because of Jake’s once again terrific work as the regular Joe who got into the wrong situation and a beautiful turn from Michael Shannon, we connect to these characters as much as we connect to the real ones.
If you think about No Country for Old Men, you’ll probably think of the chase throughout the story between Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin. It’s an extremely well done chase and keeps us thrilled throughout. But what elevates it to something more is the almost disconnected story of Tommy Lee Jones as the Sheriff. It is through the juxtaposition of elements, that we get something greater than the sum of already brilliant parts.
Here, through a similar act of juxtaposition, we get a great film out of three parts carefully connected.
Recommended Scenario: If you want a wonderful drama that rips into the mind of its central character like so many pieces of paper.