On Screen // Nocturnal Animals
Betrayal, heartbreak, and nudity are central to the storyline of Nocturnal Animals. This psychological thriller earned several Golden Globe nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Director; Michael Shannon is nominated for the Best Supporting Actor at the upcoming Academy Awards.
The film starts with three minutes of credits playing of nearly naked women dancing as if they were on display at a circus freakshow. As the storyline unfolds, the viewers get to learn how the marriage of Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) and Edward Sheffield(Jake Gyllenhaal) unfold between more shots of nude oddity.
Susan, a night owl with a sleeping problem, is given a book written by her ex-husband and dedicated with her name. While she reads the story, she must confront the painful reasons behind why she ended their marriage. At this point in Susan’s life, she has given up love in favor of the posh lifestyle that she once resented as a child. Her current husband is cheating on her and her daughter is grown, so she is left with nothing but feelings of remorse for her former life.
The story flashes back to scenes depicting Susan and her ex-husband’s crumbling relationship in between scenes from the novel he wrote about them. The movie jumps from imagined story to relationship flashback with no real indication for the viewer to know fact from fiction. Gyllenhaal plays both the husband and the fictitious husband, Adams plays ex-wife Susan, and Isla Fischer plays fictional Susan. Confused yet? The storyline only continues to mislead audiences from there.
Throughout the movie, viewers don’t know if what happened in the fictional tale is accurate or not until the end of the story. The way Adams reacts to many of the scenes would indicate so, but the final flashback in the end contradicts those early predictions. The lack of thrill by the end of the movie leaves viewers with more unanswered questions.
The screenplay is strong, but the choppy editing makes the story unnecessarily hard to understand. Michael Shannon delivers a strong performance as the cop in the fictional flashbacks. Adams and Gyllenhaal also bring strong performances, but the lack of viewer closure in the end takes away from their character storylines.