Movie Review: Nocturnal Animals

In all the many movies I have ever seen, regardless of the rating, I have never seen a cold opening of a movie even close to what I saw at the start of “Nocturnal Animals”. This film opens with a group of 4 extremely obese women, totally naked dancing on screen for a way too long a period of time. One of these four women, all of whom seem to be in their 40’s or 50’s, is so obese it was impossible to imagine that she was even alive as there was so much flab on her body. I immediately thought that there had to be some reason to open a movie like this, in such a shocking and disgusting way and in the first scene of the movie, we all find out that the main character, played by Amy Adams, is an art dealer and these obese women are part of one of the exhibits in the art studio she is running. I later thought that perhaps this opening montage of horribly obese women dancing could be some sort of symbolism, reminding us that life can be messy, or disgusting and shocking, which turned out to be a good description of the main story in this film.

This movie extensively uses flashbacks that go back and forth between a marriage 20 years in the past between Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal and a story of highway abduction in a deserted area that at first reminded me of the Kurt Russel movie from 1997 Breakdown. It is very easy within any movie to overuse flashbacks and this movie comes close, but overall, despite the chronological flipping of the story back and forth to different events, it was easy to follow the flow of the story. Central to the idea of the screenplay is a novel that Jake Gyllenhaal’s character writes about his abduction on the highway and sends to his x-wife after 19 years since they divorced. What would cause Gyllenhaal’s character to do send this novel to his x-wife after so many years is not made entirely clear in the story, but Amy Adam’s subsequent reading the novel while the horrible events of the abduction unfold are a big part of the storyline of this film. The 3 men who abduct Gyllenhaal’s wife and daughter on the highway are by no surprise vicious and disgusting nocturnal animals and what follows is the involvement of a local police officer, played by Micheal Shannon who because he is dying of cancer, cares little about following the letter of the law to find the abductors of Gyllenhaal’s family. Amy Adams character has also remarried and her new husband is played by Armie Hammer and he turns out to be a serial cheater, causing her serious regret that she ever left her first husband.

This film follows a back and forth flashback series of events that fills in the story piece by piece and ends in a complex ending that many people will not like, because it will seem incomplete, but for other people it will be appreciated as an attempt to be different, in not only telling a complex story in a different way but also leaving the final conclusions the audience might reach as the movie abruptly ends and leaves it up to the individual to figure it all out for themselves. Sometimes I find movies that end like this very annoying, almost like a magic trick where you want to find out how the magician did what he did, but for this film, I accepted the ending and was satisfied with the conclusion of what really happened which at least for me, made sense. There are now numerous different theories about this movie, the ending and even the beginning that I have found on youtube. This once again leaves it up to the individual viewer to decide to draw their own conclusions about what this movie is all about or watch the videos about the different theories or read the many reviews and articles. The ending of this movie will not be satisfying for many people, who will find this sudden conclusion too abrupt, but for me it all worked. This film is directed by Tom Ford who is more known in the fashion world than as a movie director and screenwriter, and he did a very good job directing this movie.

I thought that Nocturnal Animals was an effective thriller and I do recommend it.

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