Nocturnal Animals combines two movies in one. It is meant to be a psychological thriller and it definitely hits the mark. The narrative, however, is both strange yet gripping.
The movie revolves around Susan (Amy Adams), a woman who is rich, well-educated, successful, and has her own art gallery. But yet, seems sad, her home big and empty, a metaphor for the emptiness in her life. She is married but has a distant relationship with her extremely handsome husband who we later find out is cheating on her. She was married once before over 20 years ago to Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), an aspiring writer. But the marriage ended soon after.
Fast forward to 20 years later – Susan has not spoken to Edward since but suddenly receives a parcel from him. The parcel contains a manuscript of his first novel, dedicated to her and titled, ‘Nocturnal Animals’, a nickname he had given her due to her insomnia.
The rest of the movie switches between narratives of reality and the story of the manuscript, drawing parallels to the emotions felt by the protagonists of both stories, Susan and Tony (played by Gyllenhaal as well).
The Nocturnal Animals manuscript is the one which draws you in quickly. It is easy to understand and has a moving plot wrapped around the theme of vengeance. Tony, his wife (Isla Fisher) and their teenage daughter are on a Texan road trip which turns ugly when a bunch of rednecks get in their way. Eventually, Tony is left stranded in the desert in the middle of the night without a clue to the where his wife and daughter are.
Tony goes to the police only to find them a day later, raped and murdered. He spends the next year or so of his life helping the police find the thugs. However, with little hard evidence, the police are unable to do much. Don’t worry, as with such narratives, he does get his revenge. The story is simple, yet tragic.
Susan’s story however, is rather monotonous in comparison. She reads the manuscript over a few days, alone at home, in bed, on her sofa. She thinks about Edward, and how they fell in love. About how she did not believe in his writing, eventually grew out of love with him, and left him for another man (her current husband), after aborting his child. You can see that she is filled with regret and reading the manuscript stirs a lot of emotions in her.
While it was interesting to see how the filmmakers tries to intertwine Susan’s life and Tony’s life, I found it hard to accept the amount of emotion and anguish felt by both characters could even be compared.
The ending was a bit abrupt and puzzling at first. This was a movie which I had to think about and sleep over to appreciate. Upon further analysis, you start to realize that characters in the manuscript and in reality have much more in common than it seems.
Jake Gyllenhaal was awesome in his dual roles as Edward and Tony. As Tony especially, he was phenomenal and so believable. And it was refreshing to see Ella Enchanted’s Amy Adams play such a serious sophisticated role.
A great cast let down by an odd narrative, Nocturnal Animals certainly tries hard at being sophisticated but blotches it along the way