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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tom Ford|
|Screenplay by||Tom Ford|
|Based on||Tony and Susan
by Austin Wright
|Music by||Abel Korzeniowski|
|Edited by||Joan Sobel|
|Distributed by||Focus Features|
|Box office||$30.7 million|
Nocturnal Animals is a 2016 American neo-noir psychological thriller film written, co-produced, and directed by Tom Ford, based on the 1993 novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright. The film stars Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough, Karl Glusman, and Michael Sheen. Principal photography began on October 5, 2015, in Los Angeles, California. The film was released in the United States on November 18, 2016, by Focus Features, received generally positive reviews from critics and has grossed $30 million worldwide.
Nocturnal Animals was selected to compete for the Golden Lion at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Prize. It received numerous accolades, including nine BAFTA Award nominations and Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay, plus a Best Supporting Actor win for Taylor-Johnson. At the 89th Academy Awards, Shannon received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Angeleno art gallery owner Susan Morrow receives the manuscript for a novel penned by her estranged ex-husband Edward Sheffield along with an invitation for dinner during Edward's upcoming visit to Los Angeles. Marred by her deteriorating marriage to unfaithful businessman Hutton Morrow, Susan becomes consumed by the novel, which is both dedicated to her and named Nocturnal Animals after Edward's nickname for her.
Tony Hastings is a peaceful man who runs afoul of three local troublemakers – Ray Marcus, Lou, and Turk – during a road trip through West Texas. Forced off the road, Tony is powerless to stop Ray and Turk from kidnapping his wife, Laura, and their daughter, India, and leaving him with Lou, who forces him to drive Ray's car to the end of a road where he is abandoned. Tony manages to evade Ray and Lou when they return looking for him and makes his way to a nearby farmhouse to call the police.
Detective Bobby Andes is assigned to the case and discovers the bodies of Laura and India near an abandoned shack, where they had been raped and murdered. Tony is wracked with guilt. He is contacted by Andes a year later and is asked to identify Lou, who is charged as an accomplice in the murders of Laura and India.
Turk has been fatally shot in a botched robbery, leaving Ray as the final culprit to be brought to justice. Andes arrests Ray, but is ultimately forced to release him as they only have circumstantial evidence of his involvement. On the verge of retirement and having been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, Andes decides to take matters into his own hands and with Tony's help abducts Ray and Lou. Andes shoots Lou when he attempts to escape, but Ray succeeds in getting away.
Tony tracks Ray down on his own to the shack where Laura and India were killed and the two have a violent confrontation, in which Ray admits to raping and murdering Tony's wife and daughter, calling him weak. Tony fatally shoots him, but is blinded when Ray hits him on the head with an iron bar. Tony stumbles outside, succumbing to his brain hemorrhage, and dies after falling on his gun, shooting himself in the stomach in the process.
Shocked by the dark content and raw emotion of the novel, Susan reminisces about meeting Edward in college and their blossoming relationship, which Susan's domineering mother Anne Sutton objected to, claiming that Edward was not worthy of Susan's affections and that because of his romantic worldviews, he lacked the drive to actually achieve his goals; Susan ignored her mother's objections, ultimately marrying Edward.
After finding further evidence of Hutton's extramarital affair, Susan resumes reading the manuscript. Susan begins to recall her troubled marriage to Edward, which was strained by her frustration with his fledgling career and her dismissive attitude towards his literary aspirations, and culminated with Susan cheating on him with Hutton and ultimately divorcing Edward to marry him. Edward attempted to repair their relationship, but ultimately cut ties with Susan upon learning that she was pregnant with his child but secretly had an abortion to ensure the divorce proceeded. Susan realizes that the novel is an allegory for the loss Edward endured during their separation and that he dedicated the novel to her as a form of revenge, having sent the manuscript to prove to her that he was capable of writing a successful novel. Susan reevaluates her current behavior and contacts Edward. She arranges a meeting with him in hopes of mending their relationship, but Edward does not show up.
On March 24, 2015, it was announced that Smoke House Pictures' partners George Clooney and Grant Heslov would be producing a thriller, Nocturnal Animals, based on Austin Wright's 1993 novel Tony and Susan. Tom Ford was set to direct the film, based on his own script. Ford said that the storytelling concept of the novel appealed to him, explaining, "The film is very different than the book it’s based on. However, the central themes are the same, meaning that when I read the book, what appealed to me as a writer and a filmmaker was the idea of this device of communicating to someone through a work of fiction. Through a written work of fiction. And thereby communicating something that they had not been able to really communicate clearly. I loved that concept."
The next day, Jake Gyllenhaal was set to star in the lead roles, Edward and Tony, Amy Adams was in talks for the female lead role, Susan, and sources confirmed that Joaquin Phoenix and Aaron Taylor-Johnson may be cast in other roles. Focus Features acquired the US distribution rights to the film on May 17, 2015, while Universal Pictures handles the international distribution. Focus' deal was made with $20 million, making this the biggest deal of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, and one of the biggest of the mid 2010s. On August 6, 2015, Taylor-Johnson was confirmed to play a mysterious character who poses a threat to Gyllenhaal's character Tony's family, while Michael Shannon was also added to the cast, playing a detective investigating the violent incident. On August 28, 2015, Armie Hammer also joined the cast of the film, to play Hutton Morrow, Adams' character's husband. On September 9, 2015, Isla Fisher joined the film to play Laura Hastings, Tony's wife. On September 18, 2015, Ellie Bamber was cast in the film to play Tony's daughter. On September 30, 2015, Robert Aramayo was added to the cast. On October 5, 2015, Karl Glusman signed on to star in the film. On October 8, 2015, Peter Nyong'o was also cast in the film.
Nocturnal Animals had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 2, 2016. The film also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2016, and at the BFI London Film Festival on October 14, 2016.
The film was released in the United States on November 18, 2016.
Nocturnal Animals grossed $10.7 million in the United States and Canada and $18.6 million in other countries for a worldwide total of $29.3 million.
The film had its North American wide release on December 9, 2016, and was projected to open to $3–5 million. It ended up grossing $3.2 million, finishing 7th at the box office.
Nocturnal Animals received generally positive reviews, with critics praising Adams, Gyllenhaal, Shannon and Taylor-Johnson's performances, Ford's direction and screenplay. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 73% based on 231 reviews, with an average rating of 7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Well-acted and lovely to look at, Nocturnal Animals further underscores writer-director Tom Ford's distinctive visual and narrative skill." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 67 out of 100, based on 45 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Owen Gleiberman of Variety praised the film, stating "Tom Ford's first film since A Single Man is another winner", and complimenting the performances of Gyllenhaal, Adams, Shannon and Taylor-Johnson. Steve Pulaski of Influx Magazine gave the film a perfect A+, saying, "Nocturnal Animals is one of the best films of the year. A layered, masterful work of interwoven storylines mixed with crime-drama craft, infused with the same kind of pulsating, West Texas-vibes we saw so beautifully in Hell or High Water, and multilayered storytelling at its finest, the film features gifted actors throwing themselves into performances that require massive versatility between scenes."
Geoffrey Macnab of the The Independent awarded the film five stars, praising the performances and the direction, and stating, "Nocturnal Animals is extraordinarily deft in the way it combines romanticism and bleakness. It's a film that easily could have slipped into extreme pretentiousness but it never puts a foot wrong."