An emotionally invested enthusiast of pop culture in the guise of a Copywriter. Apathetic by design. Aesthetically offensive and eloquently candid. A sentimental heathen.

Admittedly, my initial impression for Nocturnal Animals wasn’t good. It wasn’t buzzed all that much in my circle and once it does, it was because Aaron Taylor-Johnson won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor in Motion Picture. There were buzz about how Mahershala Ali was snubbed, and only then I was intrigued enough to watch both movies. But whereas prior praises and expectation killed Moonlight for me, Nocturnal Animals actually overcame the negative sentiment its surrounded with and went beyond my expectations.

Hollow perfection. Those two words probably best described Susan Morrow’s (Amy Adams) life as a wealthy gallery owner with just as loaded social clique and handsome but neglectful husband Walker Morrow (Armie Hammer). But then her ex-husband, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal), sent her a manuscript of his novel titled Nocturnal Animals.

Soon Susan found herself haunted by the story of Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal), Laura Hastings (Isla Fisher), and India Hastings (Ellie Bamber) as they path crossed with local troublemakers led by Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).

As an avid reader (at least I was on some point in time and I’m trying to make my way back there), I found Nocturnal Animals’ premise intriguing. I’m not unfamiliar with the sensation of being caught in a novel’s web and taken to the universe it created. Nor am I a stranger to the train of thoughts that reading a book could evoke. Perhaps this is why I relate on personal level with Susan Morrow’s experience, and enjoyed this movie thoroughly. Because Tom Ford successfully delivered what Susan is going through, whisking me along with her to Tony Hasting’s world with occasional but well timed retreat to her reality. Because if I was Susan, those are exactly where I’d stop to take a breath and perform a reality check. Or, those are the parts that would triggered me to take another trip down memory lane. And with the help of these breaks, Tom Ford seamlessly stitched the two universes. I really admire how he presented the stark differences between those two worlds – Susan’s pristine and orderly world contrasted nicely with Tony’s gloomy and rugged one. Yet at the same time, these two stories are interlocked. The story of not only Tony, but also Edward’s road to eventual success and the hard sacrifices he was forced to make. No wonder then, the novel triggered Susan’s memories of her old days with Edward.

Speaking of Susan, Amy Adams was such a pleasant surprise. It’s not that she’s a bad actress, it’s just that I’ve never had any love for her characters so far. Her Lois Lane, especially, left a very bitter taste in my mouth. But here, her Susan was so nicely written, hiding complexity underneath her vain exterior. She felt so achingly familiar that it felt like I’m the Wicked Queen who dislike what the Magic Mirror is telling me. Because I had a strange notion that it’s something I might have to face in the future. And Amy Adams was so so so good as her. I could see how she struggles to be content, and how her doubts seeping through the facade along with her discomfort. Her reaction over the novel felt so real, like it distracted her so much it’s slowly taking over her mind and affected her decisions. It might not be her best performance, but it was one that resonated with me the most.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson, though, might actually gave his best performance to date. There was no trace of the meek geek from Kick-Ass, or the lovable jerk from Avengers: Age of Ultron (I’m still holding Joss Whedon against killing Pietro off, by the way). Here, he’s a full blown bastard and fucktard creep. A good for nothing lowlife whose appearance was enough to made my skin crawl in disgust. He did deserves that Golden Globe win, in my humble opinion. Everyone else was as good as expected. Perhaps just as good in the case of Michael Shannon’s Detective Bobby Andes. He was a tad mad and unforgiving but with all the good intentions. Typical tough but good old cop you could rely on. But his character felt too much like plot device for me to like him, just a way to help Tony’s character grows and usher him to the next scene. So it didn’t left any lasting impression on me.

Tony Hasting and Edward Sheffield had little difference – as supposed. Tony, after all, is Edward’s personification in the fictional world the way I used Elsa Bloodstone for mine. Jake Gyllenhaal did played the useless goody two shoes well, exasperating me with his inability to act. He’s the type I’d naturally hate. Especially because he said something that really didn’t sit well with me. See, your significant other are not obliged to like your creative works. Sure, perhaps Susan could’ve used kinder words, but an honest constructive critic is always better than cajoling white lie. Your significant other, after all, should be the one who helps you achieve your dreams – as you are to theirs – and helpful input are parts of the deal. Plus, a critic to a creative work shouldn’t be taken as personal critic unless stated otherwise. Anyone with too fragile pride who can’t see those are, well, worth leaving.

I once read a phrase saying, “If a stanza of poetry melt your heart, then a poet will be your demise.” This couldn’t have been more true in Nocturnal Animals, where a writer and a novel he wrote slowly but surely wreak havoc on Susan. A gripping thriller with painful story about love lost as its core, Nocturnal Animals was a depraved delight that I took such riveting pleasure on.

 

Director: Tom Ford. Writer: Tom Ford. Released on: 9 December 2016 (USA). Casts: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Ellie Bamber, Armie Hammer.

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