Unproductive Criticism Classic Review: Nocturnal Animals

Tom Ford’s fifth entry into film, “Nocturnal Animals”, shows to be as artificial as his day job.


Tom Ford directs fifth film, a psychological thriller.

Ethan Hermann, Reporter

At first glance, “Nocturnal Animals is a complex thriller in the likes of “Prisoners” and “Nightcrawler” thanks to its inauthentically stoic veneer, but by the time the credits roll, it becomes quite apparent how shallow the film truly is. It’s no surprise that the film’s director is a fashion designer by vocation because, in every attempt to match its contemporary tales of misanthropes, Tom Ford’s 2016 pseudo thriller falls prey to the inauthenticity that its creator is known for. 


This is a movie that likes to meander through pretentious subplots that are ultimately pointless. With a focus on a story within a story, the titular “Nocturnal Animalsnovel is an engrossing thriller that is brought to life through emotional and powerful acting by Jake Gyllenhaal. The story of a man struggling with the trauma from an attack in which he lost his wife and child isn’t breaking any new boundaries, but it is an effective premise that allows Gyllenhaal to fully present his acting chops. As the story progresses, the tension becomes increasingly palpable as the audience anticipates a snap… but it never comes. This is the problem with “Nocturnal Animals.” The Writer and Director undoes everything he builds up in both the real and fantasy storylines because every cut is a jarring reminder that the film has no focal story or narrative backbone. Despite the seemingly constant assurance of the film’s guaranteed impact, every directorial and screenwriting choice feels meaningless. The two narratives weave together a tale that should be breathtakingly powerful but ultimately fails to deliver.


What’s particularly disappointing about “Nocturnal Animals” is its unmet potential. The film is consistently engaging, but when it captures the attention of the audience, it barely ceases to let go. When the film portrays a story of regret and the dangers of superficiality, it’s intriguing and thoughtful; when the story shifts to a suspenseful thriller, it’s captivating. This is the potential the movie had! 


When the movie was doing something well, it did it exceptionally. The problem is, throughout the 117-minute runtime, what the film elicits more than anything is a sensation of confusion as it doesn’t know what to be. Amy Adams really speaks to the audience when she mentions, “I felt my mind wander, which I don’t think is a good thing.” Despite its potential, “Nocturnal Animals” is prey to its own message as it becomes what it warns not to be: superficial.

Amy Adams looking in a mirror in a scene from Nocuturnal Animals

Amy Adams stars in 2016 thriller “Nocturnal Animals”.