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Designer-turned-filmmaker Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals is tailor-made to chill

Sex and murder are in fashion among the beautiful people of this psychological thriller


Nocturnal Animals (M18: nudity)

Starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon Directed by Tom Ford

 

Some guys have all the talent.

Tom Ford isn’t just a multimillion-dollar fashion empire. The 55-year-old is also building serious respect as a filmmaker, directing-producing-scripting introspective dramas. His 2009 debut, A Single Man, was Oscar-nominated for lead actor Colin Firth. The psychological romance-mystery Nocturnal Animals is Ford’s follow-up, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2016 Venice International Film Festival.

Amy Adams plays a Los Angeles gallery owner, Susan Morrow, shaken by a manuscript she receives from ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), a harrowing tale of a family man named Tony Hastings, who with his beautiful wife and teen daughter are carjacked by a gang of psychotic rednecks (Aaron Taylor-Johnson the leering leader) on a West Texas desert highway. Is this novel written by Edward his revenge fantasy against Susan two decades after their divorce? Jake Gyllenhaal has the dual role of Edward and Tony; Isla Fisher and Ellie Bamber as the brutalised wife and daughter, respectively, are dead ringers for Adams’ Susan.

The fiction with Michael Shannon entering the scene as a hard-bitten sheriff is a horrifically unnerving crime thriller that triggers flashbacks to Susan’s and Edward’s early courtship.

And framing this story-within-a-story is Susan in the present, reading the transcript in the sterile modernist glass house she shares with her philandering creep second husband (Armie Hammer).   

The meta-movie adapted from Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan bleeds the three interlocking strands into each other to hauntingly disturbing effect in an examination of the demise of Susan’s and Edward’s relationship. It has Hitchcockian suspense and the nightmare surreality of David Lynch. Ford’s precision aesthetics, his eye for style, texture and design abetted by immaculate cinematography and editing, belie the emotional violence. 4/5

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