The Guardian review of Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals is spot on. It’s a bold film of two interlocking tales: one a character study of Amy Adams’s art dealer Susan and secondly a dramatisation of her ex-husband’s first novel that she’s reading. The novel dramatisation is a tense West-Texan revenge thriller and it’s genuinely exciting. It does feel like fiction, with its threatening country thugs and grizzled cop, but that’s the point and it still packs an emotional punch.
The LA narrative has a different tone, this is the ‘real’ world with all its disappointments and complexities. Susan has become acutely conscious of the art world’s pretensions and charades. There is a sadness to her, with her low self-worth and past regrets.
We share her intense emotional response as she reads the novel, it resonates with her life. There’s a reason why her ex-husband sent the manuscript to her: in many ways this is his revenge. Crucially, the novel is not a literal echo or parody of Susan’s past, the Texan plot isn’t a thinly disguised memoir; instead it’s the emotional impact that is true, is real. And that ultimately is the movie’s theme, artistic truth and integrity contrasted with the ‘real’ world with all its falsities. Weakness and strength.
The film is very well acted and shot, and the contrasting tones are spot on. If anything I’d like to see more of Amy Adams character; inevitably her scenes are subdued in contrast to the tension of the thriller, but her performance is very good.