Nocturnal Animals follows a woman (Amy Adams) who receives a novel in the mail from her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal). While reading it, Adams has an existential crisis and begins to question her past decisions. The novel, an intense thriller with characters eerily similar to Adams and Gyllenhaal, pulls her through a wide range of emotions, as she begins to doubt the legitimacy of her new marriage and career.
Nocturnal Animals Review
This film touches on various levels of intensity and drama for just a run-of-the-mill thriller. No, it isn't as powerful as films of a similar caliber, like Gone Girl. And it isn't as disturbingly visceral as films like Deliverance. But it flirts with elements all over the spectrum, providing a thriller option for a variety of viewers.
The scene the film will be remembered for feels like a real-life scenario. It's literally terrifying because it is so easy to insert yourself into the situation. It has very little unrealistic energy to it, so it forces your mind into the "this could actually happen" mentality. It was something that truly irked me for a brief period.
Following that event, the film slows significantly, but doesn't drag, at least from a drama perspective. I found myself enthralled with the book that is visualized through Adams as she reads. Adams puts herself and her ex-husband in the lead roles of the book, implying there is a strong connection with the characters and their past marriage together. It makes the book's story all the more relevant and relatable.
The true gem, as is usually the case in indie films such as these, is Michael Shannon. Yes, the king of indie thrillers himself. He plays the sheriff in the novel opposite Gyllenhaal. His dry, rolling persona is addicting from the very beginning. It's always a joy to see that man perform on the screen, and this film is no exception.
There isn't a strong thriller presence in this film throughout. It remains firmly in the drama department for a good portion of the runtime. But the novel's tale of destruction and revenge is thorough enough that it's worth some attention for fans of the thriller genre. Expect no horror here, however. So this may be a skip for our more committed readers.