Since it won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival, writer/director Tom Ford’s follow-up film to A Single Man, Nocturnal Animals has been receiving raves from critics. Stephen Whitty at the New York Daily News wrote, “It sounds a little too clever, but it’s not. It’s just clever enough,” while David Rooney at the Hollywood Reporter gushed, “the film once again demonstrates that Ford is both an intoxicating sensualist and an accomplished storyteller, with as fine an eye for character detail as he has for color and composition.”
Here is what some other critics had to say:
“On first viewing, I was knocked out. Second time around, the film seemed more cleverly complex but also more calculating,” – Mark Kermode, The Observer
“Ford’s artfully composed and emotionally clever noir is well-paced and, in stark contrast to the naked flesh that opens the film, never, ever sags.” – Will Lawrence, Empire Magazine
“Sleek and crisp, as is Ford’s style, but with scenes of domestic terror and toxic masculinity so tautly rendered, you sort of wish he’d just gone all the way with it and made an art-house Last House on the Left. – Jason Bailey, Flavorwire
“Aided [by the] sumptuous cinematography of Seamus McGarvey, the surgically precise editing of Joan Sobel, and a murderer’s row of acting talent, Ford’s sophomore effort is bursting with confidence, which it uses to subvert our expectations.” Dan Casey, Nerdist
“Tom Ford’s first film since A Single Man is another winner, an ambitious high-wire noir thriller with Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal in an explosive tale of love, violence, and revenge.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety
In Ford’s dark, psychosexual thriller, wealthy but troubled art gallery owner Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) receives the manuscript for a novel penned by her estranged ex-husband Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal) along with an invitation for dinner during Edward’s upcoming visit to Los Angeles. Miserable with her deteriorating marriage to her unfaithful husband, Hutton (Armie Hammer), Susan begins to read the novel, which is both dedicated to her and named Nocturnal Animals after Edward’s nickname for her.
The story follows Tony Hastings (also Jake Gyllenhaal), a peaceful man who runs afoul of three local troublemakers – Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Thomas), Lou and Turk – during a road trip through Texas. Forced off the road, Tony is powerless to stop Ray and Turk from driving away with his wife Laura (Isla Fisher) and their daughter, India, leaving him with Lou, who forces him to drive Ray’s car to an abandoned stretch of land to be abandoned. Tony manages to evade the returning Ray and Turk, who arrive in search of him, and makes his way to a nearby farmhouse to ask for help.
Detective Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon) is assigned to the case and ultimately learns Laura and India were raped and murdered, finding their bodies near an abandoned shack, and leaving Tony wracked with guilt. Shocked by the dark content and raw emotion of the novel, Susan reminisces about meeting Edward in college and their blossoming relationship, which Susan’s domineering mother Anne Sutton (Laura Linney) objected to, claiming that Edward was not worthy of Susan’s affections and that due to his romantic worldviews he lacked the drive to actually achieve his goals, which Susan ignored, ultimately marrying Edward.
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