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Nocturnal Animals review: Darkly gripping revenge tale

By Damon Smith

Published 04/11/2016

Powerhouse act: Jake Gyllenhaal in Nocturnal Animals
Powerhouse act: Jake Gyllenhaal in Nocturnal Animals

The lies we tell ourselves are often more damaging than those we fashion for the people we love.

This art of personal deception is practised with elan by characters in Tom Ford's second film - a gripping psychological thriller based on the novel Tony And Susan by Austin Wright.

The writer-director employs a simple yet effective film-within-a-film structure, ricocheting between metallic, minimalist reality and sun-baked, sweat-stained fiction with aplomb.

LA gallery owner Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) stages provocative exhibitions, which elicit coos of appreciation from her pals, but are - by her own admission - emotionally numb.

That's also a succinct description for her marriage to philandering businessman Hutton (Armie Hammer), whose financial woes impact the gallery's future.

Out of the blue, Susan receives a manuscript from her first husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). Susan and Edward haven't spoken in 19 years, so his communication is both intriguing and unsettling.

With Hutton away on business, Susan devours the pages of Edward's manuscript and in her mind's eye, she imagines Tony Hastings (Gyllenhaal again), his wife Laura (Isla Fisher) and teenage daughter India (Ellie Bamber) taking a late night drive.

On an empty stretch of desert highway, the family is terrorised by Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his buddies. Laura and India are abducted and local detective Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon) supports Tony as the husband discovers the women's horrifying fate.

Nocturnal Animals serves up a dish of revenge with measured restraint, bolstered by powerhouse performances from Adams and Gyllenhaal.

Four stars

Belfast Telegraph

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