Based on the book by Austin Wright (which I feel obligated to read now, as I truly did love this movie and would definitely be interested in seeing how it translated from the page to the screen), Nocturnal Animals is a peculiar film to summarise, due to the complicated nature of its narrative. The central character is a fashion designer named Susan (Amy Adams), who is sent an early copy of her ex-husband Edward's (Jake Gyllenhaal) new book. The two haven't spoken to each other in 19 years, yet he dedicates the book to her. It's titled 'Nocturnal Animals,' and we watch the story unfold on screen as Susan reads the book. It's violent and unpleasant, but at the same time quite brilliant, and as she continues to read, she starts to unravel the reasons as to why it's dedicated to her.
The one thing you have to know going in is that, if you've seen the trailer, you really don't know what to expect. While the trailer indicates that the film is the story of Amy Adams' life, it's far from it. She is, technically, the protagonist of this movie. Everything is told through her perspective, a lot of it relates back to her and all the flashbacks are from her point of view, but what takes up most of this film's runtime is the novel her ex-husband wrote. It's a story within a story, and it's this story that was hardly even advertised. But still, even knowing that fact doesn't change anything. When you sit down to watch this film, you will not know what's coming next, or even what it all means at first. It's messed up and enthralling at the same time, and taking my eyes away from the screen just wasn't an option.
Taking us on this psychotic story is a highly talented group of actors, and asking who's in it takes a much longer time to answer than asking who isn't in it. Jake Gyllenhaal has, and always will be one of my favourite actors, every performance of his full of class. He is without a doubt one of the finest actors to ever live, and I feel like it's no longer too early into his career to say that. He keeps on getting better and better and better, and as for Amy Adams... well, between this and Arrival, both of which hit Australian theatres today, she's had a great run of films lately, and while I did like her performance in Arrival just a little bit more, she just kills it here.
To sum up, Nocturnal Animals is smart, fucked up filmmaking that works, featuring brilliance in all departments, including the holy trinity of directing, writing and acting. Gyllenhaal and Adams are sensational, but there isn't a single weak link in the entire cast, and I could talk for hours about just how beautiful Tom Ford has made this film, even with its disturbing, graphic imagery.