I wanted to like this movie, I really did. Jake Gyllenhaal is one of my favourite actors of all time but sadly, it looks like even he has to have a dud now and then.
2016’s Nocturnal Animals is the sort of navel-gazing pretentiousness that Gyllenhaal himself would go on to mock in later films like Velvet Buzzsaw. It is a film so desperately trying to be deep that it doesn’t realise it’s got all the depth of a paddling pool.
The film has two parallel story-lines.
The first follows Susan Morrow, played by Amy Adams, a divorced gallery owner who after 20 years of separation, is sent the draft for a new book by her ex-husband Edward (played by Gyllenhaal).
The second storyline is that of the book and follows Tony Hastings, Edward’s fictional persona – also played by Gyllenhaal – as he tries to save his wife and daughter from a gang of brutal thugs.
Now it wouldn’t be fair to say these two plot threads don’t relate to each other in some way but the connection is so flimsy that it almost seems accidental rather than deliberate.
The book is clearly meant to be some sort of allegory for Susan’s relationship with Edward but this is never made clear so we as the audience are left wondering just what the big deal is.
The sad thing is the secondary plot of the in-film novel is amazing. It’s a hard-as-nails crime story that would easily have worked as its own standalone piece.
Unfortunately, we have to leave it every 10 minutes to watch Susan mope around in her apartment and act all upset for reasons that are not really explained in the movie.
Every time the film cut to the “real” world, I found myself counting down the seconds until we could return to the book and it’s far more compelling tale.
To cap it all off, the ending is that vague cliffhanger nonsense that sounds all high-brow on paper but in reality only leaves the audience feeling cheated.
Nothing is resolved, plot threads are just left dangling, and there is zero closure for anyone involved.