Nocturnal Animals, review: ‘an empty shell of a film about an empty shell of a life’

Amy Adams stars in Nocturnal Animals. Picture: Focus Features

Amy Adams stars in Nocturnal Animals. Picture: Focus Features - Credit: Archant

This is one of those films where you start out wondering how it is all going to eventually work out, and gradually begin to dread the explanation because you know it is going to be foolish.

In his first film, the marvelous and genuinely moving A Single Man, Tom Ford was able to convincingly give melancholic depth to shiny surfaces. Seven years on, the shiny surfaces in his follow up must feel badly let down by the fatuousness of their surroundings.

Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is a swish LA art dealer with an unfaithful husband (Armie Hammer) and a general sense of disillusionment.

Then she is sent the manuscript for a novel by her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) about a man (also Gyllenhaal) whose family are subjected to a chilling and brutal assault late at night on a remote West Texas highway.

It’s an ugly tale but Adams finds the writing beautiful and that the story somehow reflects her own life, which we see in flashback.


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She’s so vain she thinks this psycho drama’s about her – because she and the victims all have red hair.

This is one of those films where you start out wondering how it is all going to eventually work out, and gradually begin to dread the explanation because you know it is going to be foolish.

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Morrow’s life is a straight-faced parody of art world pretension; Ab Fab done by Haneke. The crime drama is excessively nasty and implausible – Shannon is a cop more concerned with stealing scenes than solving crimes.

This improbable fiction is though slightly more credible than the “real” life it is supposed to reveal the inner turmoil of.

The links made between the two are facetious and callous: hillbilly psychos artfully arrange the naked dead bodies of their victims so the director can make an associative jump cut to a sleeping body.

Still, at least there is a unity of form and content: this is an empty shell of a film about an empty shell of a life.

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