Tom Ford is perhaps best known for his designer clothes but having turned his hand to directing the rather good ‘A Single Man’ back in 2009 his belated follow up is the equally good Nocturnal Animals based on the novel, ‘Tony And Susan’
The film rather oddly begins with footage of a morbidly obese naked woman doing a burlesque routine in slow motion at the same time that Amy Adams name appears on screen. So you can image the distress this caused the Editor believing that yet another female film star he is besotted by has let herself go to pot or least gone to Greggs the Bakers and consumed everything on the doughnut shelf. Thankfully the lard arse ladies are part of an art installation at a prestigious gallery run by Adams, a stunningly coiffured woman who left her first husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) 19 years previously for the classically handsome Armie Hammer who it seems is now philandering with other women himself on his many ‘business’ trips. It’s while he’s away that Adams receives a manuscript from Gyllenhaal, who has continued to work as a writer frustrated at what he perceived to be her lack of support when they were married. He’s after her opinion and as she reads the manuscript which is essentially a violent thriller, the film unfolds in parallel with chapters her own life with him and which she begins to feel is something of a tale of revenge. The fact that Gyllenhaal plays both her ex husband and the lead role in the book that further blurs the line between reality and fiction.
The fictional character becomes embroiled in a nightmare scenario as he drives through the desert at night with his wife and late teens daughter only to find themselves involved in an altercation with 3 rednecks led by an unrecognisable and career best Aaron Tyler Johnson. It all goes hideously awry and the always good Michael Shannon as a local police detective gets involved.Flitting back and fore between Adams vacuous world of fabulousness to the grimy horror of the story she starts to reflect on her relationship with her ex husband and starts re-examining what they had, where it went wrong and how the book seems to be part wish fulfilment, part critique and part regret.
This is the first of two Amy Adams films (‘Arrival’ is out next week) and like Julianne Moore both are stunningly talented beautiful red heads and always turn in great performances and this is no exception in what is a really great little film by Ford. All the cast put in great turns and Taylor Johnson is not the only almost unrecognisable actor with Laura Linney in a brief role as Adams social status aware and heartless mother. Shannon too is great in a role that is not that accurately written if only because of its poor grasp of police procedurals which arguably could be explained by the fictional author not having done his research. But don’t let that you put you off as this is a decent grown up thematically rich film that is one of this years’ best. If the fashion designer Tom Ford can make great films like this there’s hope for Percy Primark.
Here’s the trailer: