Nocturnal Animals (2016) {spoiler alert}

“Why are you so driven to write?”

“I guess it’s a way of keeping things alive. Saving things that will eventually die. If I write it down then it’ll last forever.”

Nocturnal Animals is easily one of the most underrated movies of 2016. A drama, thriller directed and written by (the) Tom Ford, I did not see the end coming – which was pretty dumb of me given the fact that the whole movie is essentially about revenge.

So I’m going to try and list down everything I love about this movie but I do not think it is an exhaustive list.

So I’m not sure why Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal aren’t getting their share of Oscar nominations (and wins) because they are easily some of the superb actors in the industry right now. I decided to watch this movie simply because of the cast (and a stray internet comment about how neither La La Land nor Moonlight deserved the Academy Award for Best Picture but Nocturnal Animals did). The acting is a treat in itself. I love the way Gyllenhaal was absolutely convincing as both Tony and Edward. Tom Ford needed to give Edward his screen time when Edward comes find Susan outside the hospital after she has gotten an abortion. Gyllenhaal would have killed it. But I also think of it as the moment Susan hates thinking about the most and still regrets it (because, like she said, she never stopped regretting it). And since we see Edward only through Susan’s memories, Susan stops thinking and snaps her mind shut when she recalls that particular moment.

Yes, it is brilliant.

Which brings me to the second point I love about the movie – Tom Ford’s screenplay and direction. 

The story is very cohesive and engaging. It is based on a novel by Austin Wright, Tony and Susan. I haven’t read the book but the story is marvellous. I do not know how closely the movie follows the book but the movie has a very well-woven plot and good direction. It is good story telling and I like that. I like that very much. 

I love how the whole movie is basically showing how Edward’s book is affecting Susan. With not as many words but definitely with the direction, Tom Ford manages to show that “weak” Edward has finally written a very strong book which gets Susan to think about him again – and hope something from him. They have been apart for nineteen (not twenty) years. Susan’s life is a big success on the outside but she is a wreck who can’t sleep, has a cheating husband and is emotionally vulnerable. It is the perfect time for Edward to strike and have his revenge. Does he know? Or did it really just take him that long to come up with this work?

Susan didn’t think she could be a good artist. She still doesn’t think she is a good artist (and I don’t, too). But she is successful – and very much like her mother, who she disliked when she was younger and didn’t want to become her. Has Edward been following her life? Does he know he can hurt her like this? He is an English teacher in some obscure prep school who never remarried. His life’s work has been about taking revenge. 

A younger Susan had told him not to write about himself and written him off as weak. Edward’s book is about a character too weak to save his wife and daughter from getting raped and murdered, and how he gets his revenge. Tony, the protagonist of Edward’s book, hates himself for his weakness and gets his revenge but he still hates himself and, I presume, that is why he had to die. Is Edward weak? Is that why he spent his life getting his revenge? Or is he just strong in other ways, like a younger Susan first presumed about him?

I just love how Edward never really appears in the movie even though the entire movie is about him and his revenge. 

There are just too many moments I love in this movie. Amy Adams’ scene with Jena Malone and the painting “REVENGE” – absurdly pointing to the end I never expected. The way they discover the dead bodies and the scene transitions to the one where Susan’s daughter is in bed with her lover. I like how the viewer doesn’t know at this point about what Susan did to Edward. I love the portrayal of anxiety with the heart sounds. I like how Susan confides her private thoughts to people she normally won’t if she wasn’t so sleep deprived. I love how Susan wipes off the lipstick in addition to leaving behind her wedding ring when she prepares for her date with Edward. I like the buzzing flies and the gross disfigured side of Tony’s face after he has killed Ray (i.e., had his revenge). 

There’s quite a lot and I could go on and on – which I probably will in future edits to this post after I rewatch the movie.

I’m going to check out more of Tom Ford’s works.

I had a good time watching this movie and I strongly hope it gets more recognition. 


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