Nocturnal Animals – Film Review

What’s it about?

Nocturnal Animals, is a stylish drama directed by Tom Ford, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams in the lead.

When Susan Morrow receives the manuscript of a new novel written by her ex husband Edward, she does not know what to make of it. Brutal, violent and emotionally draining, this novel makes her ponder about all her past decisions and the associated emotional baggage she has been carrying all these years after separating from her ex. Meanwhile, the viewer is also presented with the story that takes place within the novel, where the Hastings family, who are on holiday, is left devastated by a roadside incident. How both these stories culminate forms the rest of the film.

What’s good?

For the first forty minutes or so, the film does a really good job in setting up the premise and building tension up to the main flashpoint of the first act of the story. This part of the story has been shot brilliantly, and has some of the most intense scenes in recent film memory. Also, the concept of juxtapositioning two stories works well for this film.

The film is shot beautifully: darker shades  with minimalistic colors for one story and  vivid colors for the other; and these help in setting the mood of the film. The art direction is also very good, with miniscule details of the curated houses to the dirty, dusty trailers being captured very well.

What’s not?

The film is not able to hit the dramatic highs that it scales in its first forty minutes. The pacing of the film slows down considerably and just when you think that the director is constructing a drama which will have a satisfying pay-off  in the climax, he decides to wind up the film. As a result, we have an explosive first act, a middling second act and just half a third act. By the end of the film, the viewer feels underwhelmed and a little disappointed even, as this film had the potential to be on another level.


Jake Gyllenhaal does a great job in portraying two very similar yet distinct characters. As Tom Hastings, he brings a certain vulnerability to the role with his mannerisms and subtle body transformations. As Edward, he is a sensitive, fragile and flawed novelist with an inferiority complex. After Nightcrawler, this has got to be amongst his best performances. Amy Adams as Susan Morrow does not have much to do in the film but stare around morosely most of the time and reflect on all the unhappiness in her life and this she does effectively. The scene stealer, however, is Aaron Taylor Johnson as the Ray Marcus, a sadistic psychopath who cannot bear for people to call him names. Rest of the cast is good in the limited roles they have.

Final Word

A slow burn drama with some intense moments, this film is definitely a onetime watch.


3 / 5 stars

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