Screenplay: Tom Ford
Director: Tom Ford
Main Cast: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon
Release Date: December 9, 2016
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Fifteen years ago, Susan Morrow left her first husband, Edward Sheffield, an unpublished writer. Now, she's enduring middle class suburbia as a doctor's wife, when out of the blue she receives a package containing the manuscript of her ex-husband's first novel. He writes asking her to read the book; she was always his best critic, he says.
As Susan reads, she is drawn into the fictional life of Tony Hastings, a math professor driving his family to their summer house in Maine. And as we read with her, we too become lost in Sheffield's thriller. As the Hastings' ordinary, civilized lives are disastrously, violently sent off course, Susan is plunged back into the past, forced to confront the darkness that inhabits her, and driven to name the fear that gnaws at her future and will change her life.
On Saturday night, my Dad and I decided to sit down and watch a movie. We were originally going to watch Girl on the Train, but couldn’t find the right movie on any streaming site. We eventually settled on Nocturnal Animals. I’d heard it was a really good movie, and my friend absolutely loved it. I’d also heard that this movie was based on a book previously titled Tony and Susan by Austin Wright. I must admit, I haven’t read the book, and I probably won’t in this case. This is a story within a story; we follow our main character, Susan Morrow, who receives a manuscript from her ex-husband, Edward Sheffield. He’s written a novel and wants feedback from her. This initially seems odd because Susan hasn’t heard from Edward in 20 years. I’ve read a lot of reviews of this book on Goodreads since seeing the movie, and a lot of people didn’t enjoy the plot of this movie, or found that the links between Edward’s novel and Susan’s reality were too vague. This movie is really bizarre, and I have to admit that I didn’t really understand the link between them at first, and only really started to get it at the end. I had to look up reviews of the movie to see what I was missing. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one. However, now that I know what it represents, I kind of love it.
So, we see Susan at the beginning of the movie, where she is the very successful owner of an art gallery. She clearly has a lot of money and leads an extravagant lifestyle. But, it soon becomes clear that Susan’s marriage is not a happy one. Her husband seems distant, and they don’t spend a lot of time with each other. Her husband is away on business most of the time, and you can tell that he’s probably having an affair. When Susan receives the manuscript from Edward, she immediately begins to read, and the movie switches to show us the plot of the novel rather than Susan reading. The novel begins with Tony, the main character, his wife, and his daughter. They embark on a roadtrip, where things quickly go south. They run into a group of men in a car that try to run them off the road. Eventually, the men take his wife and daughter, and Tony is left alone. The rest of Edward’s novel gets a lot darker, and as Susan reads, we see snippets of her past, and the way that their relationship worked out.
Eventually it becomes clear that the novel is Edward writing about their relationship and the way it made him feel. Tony’s loss of his wife and daughter is supposed to mirror and symbolize the way that Edward felt when his relationship with Susan ended. I originally didn’t notice these connections, and was largely confused about what these two narratives had to do with each other. When the movie ended and I read about the movie, I was able to see the connection that the author, and director intended. This novel that Edward sends Susan is really just a giant “fuck you” to her. Edward always felt that Susan didn’t believe in him, didn’t think he could write a successful novel. Edward also intended the novel to make Susan feel the intense emotions he felt by showing her the emotions through his character of Tony.
I was really unsure whether I loved or hated this movie, but after learning everything I did from the reviews, I think this was expertly done. The ending of both Edward’s novel, and Susan’s reality are extremely brutal. I won’t give any spoilers away, but they were so good. The way the movie was structured was so interesting, and seeing both endings happen simultaneously was just amazing, and really had a strong impact with the rest of the story.
Let me know if you’ve seen this movie and if you’ve enjoyed it, or if you’re interested in watching it. Let’s discuss in the comments!