Nocturnal Animals is described as a 2016 American neo-noir psychological thriller film written, co-produced, and directed by fashion brand CEO Tom Ford, based on the 1993 novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright.
The film boasts an all-star cast including; Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough, and Michael Sheen. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival prior to its release in November 2016.
It follows the story of wealthy but troubled art gallery owner, Susan Morrow. She is in between mental turmoil over my husband not supporting her or being around much when she receives a novel manuscript from her estranged ex-husband Edward Sheffield along with an invitation to meet up since Edward’s would be in the area.
Susan begins to read the novel, which is both dedicated to her and named Nocturnal Animals which we later find out was his nickname for her as she suffers insomnia. As she reads the manuscript the story comes to life on screen and you begin to see a parallel between Susan and the main character Tony Hastings.
Tony Hasting is embarking a journey for a vacation with his wife Laura, and daughter India but on the road they receive trouble from three locals who run them off the road Tony is powerless to stop Ray and Turk from driving away with his wife and daughter, leaving him with Lou, who forces him to drive Ray’s car to an abandoned field. Tony manages to evade the thugs as they return to finish him off.
Detective Bobby Andes is assigned to the case who comes across as cold and not very convinced a crime has been committed retraces Tonys steps and ultimately they stumbled across Laura & Indias dead bodies. Shocked by the dark and grim story of the novel, Susan has nostalgia of when she first met Edward after college and their relationship started and how her domineering mother Anne Sutton objected to their marriage. Anne believed Edward was not worthy of Susan’s affections and lacked the drive to actually achieve his goals or could support her lavish lifestyle. These words come to haunt Susan now.
She calls her husband to find she is with another woman; she then calls her daughter who is busy with her boyfriend. Susan resumes reading the manuscript, in which Tony is contacted by Andes one year after his family’s death and asked to identify a man who they matches the fingers to in the death of his family. Lou is charged as an accomplice in the murder case and Turk has been fatally shot in a botched robbery, leaving Ray as the final culprit to be caught. Tony and Andes arrest Ray, but are ultimately forced to release him as they only have circumstantial evidence of his involvement.
Ande has been diagnosed with lung cancer and decides before retiring he wants to close the case Tonys case in luring Ray and Lou to the shack where Laura and India were killed. Andes shoots and kills shoots Lou while Ray escapes.
This triggers off another memory for Susan where she recalls her troubled marriage to Edward, her frustration with his career as her mother foretold. This resulted in Susan cheating on Edward with the charming and handsome Hutton. She also secretly aborted Edwards child to ensure the divorce proceedings ran as expected.
Back to the novel, Tony tracks down to the same shack where he raped and murdered Tony’s wife and daughter. Tony out of self-defence shoots him, but is blinded by a strike to the head by a crowbar. He awakes and feels his way out of the shake to fall and triggers his gun and shoots himself to ultimately die of his wounds.
Susan realizes that the novel is an allegory for the loss Edward endured during their separation and that he dedicated the novel to her as a form of revenge, having sent the manuscript to prove to her that he was capable of writing a successful novel.
Susan feels remorse and contacts Edward, arranging a meeting with him in hopes of mending their severed relationship. She waits and waits but he never shows, showing her he has moved on with his life, and leaves Susan to live with the consequences of her actions.
This film is not what I envisioned, definitely the focus of art is in the film throughout from start credits to midway seeing the Revenge painting to the Animal shot by arrows, and all seem to point to Susan. Tom Ford adapted the original book well and really brought across the emotional anguish of Edward without you even seeing his interact with Susan in the film.