Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals (2016)
R / 1h 56m / Drama
Golden Globe Winner (2017) – Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, Aaron Taylor-Johnson

When you love someone, you have to be careful with it. You might not get it again.

I haven’t seen such a polarized reaction atmosphere from critics vs people since Cabin in the Woods. In the same fashion, the reason being is that viewers just don’t understand it.

I’m not going to lie, Nocturnal Animals can go over your head very quickly. It can separate itself into two easily, and it can leave you unfulfilled if you fall victim to that. It sucks that you have to understand certain elements to pull this film together in your head, but hey, that’s part of being really into intelligent film.

It is so important to keep considering this film a connected and relevant storyline throughout. The progression is nonlinear – jumping from the present- to the novel – to the past frequently but smoothly. It is NECESSARY to absorb the information given in each era. Susan, a wealthy, but empty, art connoisseur is involved in a cold and unfaithful marriage. 19 years after leaving her first husband, Edward, a writer– he sends her a copy of his novel that will be published soon. Susan, an insomniac, becomes engulfed in the violent telling of a family torn apart.

I do not aim to spoil Nocturnal Animals in any way – it does deserve your viewing and interpretation – but some of this review will simply have to delve into the details. A heavy portion of the film is set in the novel – it unfolds naturally and I really have no complaints about it, it could have been the movie itself, honestly. I will say though, that it is very dark and unnerving and uncomfortable in many places – a trait, which we will learn, is abnormal for Edward. I do have one complaint and I will air it here: there wasn’t enough time devoted to the flashbacks. We connect with Susan and understand her immediately – but the screentime devoted to Edward is so sparse, it was truly hard to make a connection. Now, I will say I did connect on a different level with him – writers understand other writers – their passions, weird ticks and general world views – but everything I learned about him was because Susan’s character development framed it so. I don’t like that. In fact, I hate it. But alas, we learn that they were a young love, shackled by an opposite attraction – with Susan being very logical and structured and Edward being the creative. We see glimpses of their arguments; we see where they are crumbling. Susan views him as lofty and sensitive – the emotionally weaker of the two. It’s clear and present and they are thrust apart by her later actions.

It’s important to understand this character development. If it’s skipped, you’re done for.

It is heartbreaking to watch the novel unfold. Putting yourself in a man’s shoes that lost his family so violently is a recipe for the two day sulk (this phenomenon is defined as the period of time it takes for you to shake a particularly draining film) (according to me). Reading it, Susan is visibly distracted in her everyday life – feeling guilt and remorse and shame. When moving back and forth from novel to present – the color schemes have a huge effect on the viewer – all of Susan’s scenes are tinted blue and feel isolated and distant while the novel scenes are yellowed, up close and feel too entirely personal. It is a hell of a juxtaposition and it really, really does a number on your senses.

Nocturnal Animals comes to a close with Susan reaching out to Edward, agreeing to meet each other again, and Susan being alone in a restaurant drinking scotch. A crazy amount of viewers got upset by this- claiming two hours and no conclusion but I very much disagree- I’d like to think that Edward got his guts back and moved on, equally devastating her after she fell back in love with his violent and real counterpart that showed itself 19 years later. But who knows, maybe he just got stuck in traffic.

When you love someone, you have to be careful with it. You might not get it again.

8/10

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