September 23rd 2017

Today I watched Nocturnal Animals. I’ve talked about this before, but one of the things that I look for in a film is the similarity – or indeed, differences – between the opening and the closing images. It’s a useful way of showing what development there has been throughout the film, and will often represent the overall theme of the movie.

The opening image of Nocturnal Animals is one of an overweight, naked, aging lady dancing provocatively in front of a red curtain. This same scene is played out by four or five other women of the same description, the women dance naked for three minutes whilst the opening credits play.

It is an uncomfortable way to start a film, and that’s exactly the point. Writer/Director Tom Ford wants the audience to feel uncomfortable right from the first minute, because they’ll carry that feeling with them throughout the movie.

The entire film is uncomfortable, and then two hours later the closing image is a closeup shot of Amy Adams alone in a restaurant, she’s half a second away from tears when the film fades to black. That final scene is uncomfortable to watch, but for different reasons.

Going into it, I didn’t know too much about the plot, other than it was about a woman who receives a novel from her ex-husband. My expectation was that it was going to be a kind of Stephen King thriller, where something dastardly is revealed by the novel, and the real-life Amy Adams is put in danger by the things we learn in the novel, or that it would reveal the husband’s dark past, or something.

The truth is that none of that really happens. The husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) just wrote a novel, and Amy Adams just cries a lot.

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The novel is dramatised within the movie itself, and it seemed more sinister than it was by the fact that Jake Gyllenhaal played both the real-life writer ex-husband, and the husband in the novel. But, the novel husband taking Jake’s appearance is just Amy Adams projecting an image onto a character in a book, it turns out that nothing sinister happens. Like, at all. Even though the wife and child in the book look similar to Amy Adams, there’s no evident connection. I was waiting for the twist where we found out that the ex-husband actually murdered the daughter or something, but nope. It was just a sometimes linear buddy-cop thriller.


I’m sure there was a point in having a movie within the movie, but I don’t see it. I was far more interested in what happened in the book-world than in the movie-world, and in the end I was let down by both.

Amy Adams ends up alone in a restaurant because she invited her ex-husband to dinner and he didn’t show up. And that’s the big reveal.

It was kind of disappointing.

There was so much foreshadowing, and tension, and uncomfortability (not a word) that built to nothing.

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It’s possible that I’m missing something with the book. I’m pretty sure I’m missing something somewhere, because we’re told that Amy Adams aborted Jake Gyllenhaal’s baby, but we’re also told she has a teenage daughter, who resembles the daughter in the book. So maybe they did have a kid?

I don’t know. I’m kind of confused, and still pretty uncomfortable from the bare-naked ladies.

Until tomorrow, Aaron Taylor-Johnson was excellent, though.


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