First Reviews: Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals”

In the wake of the unanimously gushing reviews for both Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” and Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival,” the world premiere reaction to fashion designer turned filmmaker Tom Ford’s sophomore film at the Venice Film Festival has proven to be of equal level gushing if a little more divided in terms of the zealousness of their appreciation.

The film includes a narrative within a narrative. The framing one involves Amy Adams and Armie Hammer and is austere and remote upper class, the film within the film is a pulpy mid-west genre thriller about masculinity. Here’s some of the reaction so far:

“Tom Ford’s ‘Nocturnal Animals’ is a feast for the eyes and a fun-size Mars Bar for the brain. It’s also highly enjoyable, when it’s not trying to be serious and make heavy points about the interrelation of art and life. It’s a bifurcated film, and so perhaps a bifurcated reaction is to be expected, but after so much drama, all the violent deaths, all the heavy-rimmed glasses, all the designer bathtubs, all the beautiful male forms, all that bitten-off art-world chatter, all that Michael Shannon being the greatest thing ever (again, but this time in a Stetson), Ford’s attempt to synthesize the two halves of his film into a coherent whole is what sells it all short…” – The Playlist

“David Lynch meets Alfred Hitchcock meets Douglas Sirk in Nocturnal Animals, a sumptuously entertaining noir melodrama laced with vicious crime and psychological suspense, which more than delivers on the promise of A Single Man, writer-director Tom Ford’s first foray behind the camera seven years ago. Confidently dovetailing three strands that depict present and past reality, as well as a dark fictional detour that functions as a blunt real-life rebuke, the movie once again demonstrates that Ford is both an intoxicating sensualist and an accomplished storyteller, with as fine an eye for character detail as he has for color and composition…” – THR

“Ford is still, if nothing else, a meticulous arranger of images. As with A Single Man, early every frame of Nocturnal Animals has the microcalibrated look of a fashion shoot that took weeks to plan… As shot by the gifted cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, Nocturnal Animals is beautiful—or at least arresting—every minute, and it sure isn’t boring. But it’s unclear exactly what Ford is trying to say, though it’s clear he’s trying hard to say something. And that’s the most frustrating thing about this picture: There seems to be some nuance here – something that is possibly very meaningful to Ford – that just can’t break through the movie’s glassy surface…” – TIME

“It must be said that other refined movies have gone to these places before. The granddaddy of them all is “Blue Velvet,” the great postmodern Hitchcockian noir that turned pulp sensation into a surrealist high. Then there was “In the Bedroom,” which may be the most sophisticated revenge thriller ever staged; it was like a Bronson movie made by Merchant-Ivory. “Nocturnal Animals” isn’t as good as those films, yet it seizes and holds you — with its suspense, and its vision. It leaves no doubt as to Tom Ford’s fervor and originality as a director, and it leaves you hoping that he’ll make his next film before another seven years passes by…” – Variety

“It’s a movie with a double-stranded narrative – a story about a fictional story which runs alongside – and it pulls off the considerable trick of making you care about both equally. Clive James once wrote that talk about ‘levels of reality’ never properly acknowledges that one of these levels is really real. That probably holds true. But in Nocturnal Animals, these levels are equally powerful, and have an intriguingly queasy and potent interrelation…” – The Guardian

“In visual terms, this is a tour de force from Ford and his cinematographer Seamus McGravey. They deal with the LA scenes in a dream-like way that is reminiscent of David Lynch’s Mullholland Drive but the Texan scenes have the grit and violence you’d find in a Peckinpah film. Ford also elicits excellent performances both from his two leads and from the supporting cast…” The Independent