TIFF 2016 Nocturnal Animals Review
Nocturnal Animals is a riveting and intense film starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. The film tells the story of Susan, a depressed and isolated socialite of Los Angeles who receives a manuscript from her ex-husband, Edward Sheffield. Susan lives an isolated life with her new husband and spends much of her time alone. During that alone time, she reads over his manuscript. The manuscript tells the brutal story of Tony Hastings
The manuscript tells the brutal story of Tony Hastings, a man who, while traveling with his wife and daughter is accosted by these creeps on a highway in West Texas. His wife and daughter end up being taken away by these men. The story that proceeds from there is about Tony trying to get answers about his wife and daughter. This brings him in contact with Sherriff Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon). The story following this is a harrowing tale.
The atmosphere that is created in this film is phenomenal. The tension from the beginning of the film is continued throughout and has the audience on the edge of their seats. There is one scene in particular where the only sound you can hear are heartbeats, and they flash back and forth between Susan and Tony and it is so intense. Jake’s performance in this is top-notch and Oscar worthy. He is raw and emotional. The intensity of his performance gives you chills. Amy Adams gives a very different performance. She is silent but very emotional in this role. Much of her power comes just simply from facial expressions. She is brilliant. Michael Shannon is Michael Shannon; just incredible, out-there and always a pleasure to watch. Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays Ray Marcus, one of the creeps and oh, man is he creepy! He really gives you goosebumps in this film. I was genuinely terrified of him. All these performances mesh so well, and the chemistry between the characters is perfect.
Along with amazingly strong performances, the film is visually spectacular. There are sweeping landscape scenes of West Texas, with the light dancing and making colors in the clouds. They are truly breathtaking. The film also has very distinct color tones. During the present day where we see Susan in her isolated life, the colors are very much monotone, and when there are colors, they are overly bright and garish. In the other parts of the film, the colors are very rich, adding a distinct contrast to the separate times and realities. The film is just a visual marvel!
What I love about films that make you think is that they have so much rewatchability. This is one of those films that can be watched multiple times and each time you will see something you missed before. The film is well-crafted and beautifully done. The performances are top-notch. While this film may not be for everyone, it will be well-loved by those who are drawn into the story.