Amy Adams is superb as Susan, a successful art dealer who seems to have everything she could want. Surrounded by the trappings of wealth she is emotionally unfulfilled. One day, the debut novel of ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) arrives, a pulp Texan murder revenge thriller Called ‘Nocturnal Animals’, it's dedicated to her. It's cruel, violent and sad and, as the fiction-within-fiction unfolds, Susan is forced to confront past deeds which have led her to her current, guilt-ridden and unhappy existence.
With his second feature, fashion icon Tom Ford once again adapts and directs and, if anything, offers up an even more sophisticated concoction than his incredible debut, A Single Man. Like that film, Nocturnal Animals is an elegant affair, expertly crafted, exquisitely made and as beautifully tailored as a suit by the man himself.
And this works perfectly as we get to know Susan. In an astonishing opening sequence, her new gallery opening is going with a hefty swing, literally, as naked slow motioned obese bodies dance for the gawping throng, and for us. Hypnotic and repellant, beautiful and disturbing, this opening sequence sets the tone for the whole film, as we quickly learn that Susan's world is as shallow as an LA pool in a drought. Her marriage is loveless and, whilst her work has provided her with material glory and a splendid home, she knows that the work she peddles is worthless.
As she reads Nocturnal Animals, the novel plays out for us too, and it's a different world – vibrant colours, overwrought characters, dramatic situations. Importantly, what we're seeing is Susan's view of the story in which she naturally casts the author, her ex (Gyllenhaal) in the main role of the man seeking revenge for a brutal crime, with the help of hard-bitten cop Michael Shannon, superbly played.
Within this complex narrative comes a third element as memories of the affair between Susan and Edward come in flashbacks revealing why they split up, why Susan feels how she does and exactly why Edward's bitter revenge tragedy is Susan's legacy.
The interweaving narrative strands are deftly handled and Ford gets great performances from a brilliant cast, including some fantastic cameos from the likes of Laura Linney, Michael Sheen and a brilliantly camp Andrea Riseborough. There's genuine fear and menace too, a nocturnal attack being one of the most uncomfortably upsetting scenes in recent memory, Aaron Taylor-Johnson creating a character you'll hate for the rest of your life.
Some have seen the film as cold and remote, as Susan is, but this misses the point, and the fiction's unlocking of her eventual need to address her past deeds leaves the climax as an even more devastatingly understated experience.
NOCTURNAL ANIMALS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: TOM FORD / STARRING: AMY ADAMS, JAKE GYLLENHAAL, MICHAEL SHANNON, AARON TAYLOR-JOHNSON, ARMIE HAMMER / RELEASE DATE: 13TH MARCH