You gotta figure out what you love in life. Sometimes I have moments where it’s sort of like everything is frozen, and everything is absolutely clear… and you can feel rather than think. ~Tom Ford, Visionaries–Inside the Creative Mind (2016)
The obsessive, creative drive of Tom Ford has dominated the fashion industry for the past two decades. With the release of the chilling thriller Nocturnal Animals, he prepares to once again unfurl the same artistic storm on the movie industry.
Writer and director of the unflinching and thought-provoking drama A Single Man starring Colin Firth, Ford plans on raising the bar with Nocturnal Animals. The film follows the story of a woman who receives an unpublished novel from her ex-husband. As she reads the violent story, she questions her past… and the decisions she is making in her present.
A revenge thriller at its finest, will Ford be able to build upon the literary acclaim of the source novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright?
What They Will Do:
Dress it up and show off the story with exacting detail.
Tom Ford chose to bring Wright’s text to life upon his return to movies, and the resulting film will have his finger prints all over it. Expect well-dressed characters, unflinching film work (particularly regarding the human body), and a plot line that is both concentrated and vast. He will also not let the story languish in normality of “every-day life.”
Susan in the book runs the house for her heart surgeon husband, pays the bills, cleans and cooks, takes care of her two kids, and teaches three times a week at community college. The Susan of the film, played by the stunning Amy Adams, runs a successful art gallery. No one wants to see Adams wearing a denim jumper and playing with children in a sandbox. The jumps between past and present, although possible in the novel, would be too dissonant on the silver screen.
What They Won’t Do:
Ford will not pull this film back into 1990’s setting of the book.
First published in 1993, the book had literary acclaim, but did not become more widely read until after the Wright’s death in 2003. Although Ford proved that his was capable of tastefully handling a decade-driven piece in An Single Man (set in the 1960’s), Nocturnal Animals with its psychological undertones will be so much more powerful if audiences do no have to make a time jump in addition to keeping track of three storylines.
Eliminating the original time frame will also give the writer and director the creative license to artistically make-over the story as he sees fit. For example, Susan’s new husband goes by the name of Arnold in the book, but the name of Hutton in the movie is chosen to appeal to modern viewers.
What They Should Do:
Find the deeper meaning in the story, and use symbolism to tease the audience.
Wright’s book did not win literary acclaim because it was a page-tuner. No, the book is laced with symbolic prose reminiscent of the great Flannery O’Connor. Ford should resist the temptation to make this a traditional horror-thriller movie. Yes, the content of the-story-within-the-story is horrendously violent, but the overall story is so much more than that. It is great cautionary tale of what it means to love someone, and if we can ever truly recover from losing someone we love.
If Ford chooses to ignore the symbolism, he will lose the greater potential of Nocturnal Animals.
What They Should UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES DO:
Tie this movie up with a bow.
No pun intended, but the book haunts the readers memory all the more because the author chose to leave the ending open for the reader to decide. There is no happy reunion scene among main characters, and there is little resolution in any of the storylines. If the film attempts to force some resolution on the audience, it will ruin the haunting mystery of the book. The reader or audience follows Susan’s experience intensely. It makes sense that after such a connection that the viewer should be launched out of their seats in quiet contemplation of how they would have reacted in Susan’s place.
How far, what moral boundaries would you break, to chose love? The story of Nocturnal Animals, as with all truly literary works, is meant to provoke, make you wonder, and leave you wanting.
Expect this movie to keep you up at night.
Wish List Item:
As a movie about a book-within-a-book, I want to see at least a few shots of Amy Adams reading. Real, page-turning reading. She has wonderful eyes and an expressive face, so the audience could stand a few seconds of watching her read. After all, this is a story about how books and what we consume change our perceptions… Why shouldn’t we see some print consumption on screen?
Chances this is happening? I give it a solid 50%. Ford may also chose to have Adams read off a device…which is fine… but I don’t believe it produces the same effect of reading until the darkness of the wee morning hours descends.
Nocturnal Animals (R) jumps from page to screen across the United States on December 9th. The thriller is already showing in select theaters around the world. Written for screen and directed by Tom Ford. Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Put on some fancy clothes and check it out!
Image Sources: Focus Films, Movie News Guide, Wall Street Journal