Who knew Tom Ford would translate his impeccable fashion designs into a viable film career? His elegantly composed 2009 film A Single Man, about an English professor coping with the death of his boyfriend in 1960s Los Angeles, is a character study that truly exemplifies the range of Ford’s style. Nocturnal Animals, Ford’s second film at the helm, as well as cowriter of this adapted screenplay, has created one of my favorite films of the year. Although it doesn’t fit neatly into the category of horror, it fits squarely into a genre-bending “tri-narrative” that is suspenseful and oh-so stylish as only Ford could make it.
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams, our two stars are the subject of a different type of character study: coping with divorce. But the ubiquitous end of a marriage is not a spiral into melodrama, nor is it some twisted tale where Adams and Gyllenhaal attempt to reconcile past demons only to exhume more. This is ultimately a story about loss.
But this tri-narrative is the only spoiler I will give you, dear reader, for any trailer or synopsis you will find online will do a grave injustice to the true meaning of a preview. This one movie contains three distinct narratives – not a new approach, but certainly the best I have seen in years. There is the narrative of the past, the present, and the fiction: the latter a book Adams reads written by her divorced husband. It is this fiction that explores the rifts of regret in one and repose in another.
So why consider this horror? Frailty and violence, two explorative themes of Nocturnal Animals, also characterize the human condition, and they are brilliantly exemplified by Gyllenhaal and Adams. Gyllenhaal’s take on a writer beset with regret and loss is manifested by the writer’s fictionalized violence and rape that haunts the very real ex played by Adams. It is like a breakup described as ripping a heart out of one’s chest, an apt metaphor for pain. Now imagine the metaphor of the fictional narrative in concert with the present and the past: It is one of the most beautiful, nuanced, and terrifying cautionary tales of divorce to date.
Eric Dinsmore | Twitter: @dinsmorality