Spoiler Alert: Yeah, he did.
I just wanted to see a movie with my girlfriend. I was looking for ninety-plus minutes to escape the realities of our recent presidential election and enjoy an American pastime with a side of greasy popcorn. What I did not want, let alone expect, as I sat down to view Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals” was one hour and 57 minutes of squirming in my seat and continuous reminders of the violence and stigma attached with my identified gender.
Don’t get me wrong. I saw the trailer. I knew I signed up for a psychological thriller that was sure to have some violence in it. But I liked film’s three reputable actors - Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Michael Shannon - actors I naively assumed wouldn’t participate in a film that shames a person’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy.
The film follows a wealthy insomniac/art gallery owner Susan Morrow, played by Adams. She receives a manuscript of a novel written by her estranged ex-husband Edward Sheffield, played by Gyllenhaal, along with an invitation to dinner during Edward’s upcoming visit to Los Angeles. Adam’s character is nothing short of miserable - she’s unhappy with her current unfaithful husband, and seemingly tormented by something in her past. And here we go...
Susan begins to read the novel, at which point the film jumps back and forth between her reading and a recreation of the novel’s dark and violent plot. Edward not only dedicated the novel to Susan, but named it “Nocturnal Animals” after his nickname for her. Remember, she is up all night tormented by something from her past - something that she did to Edward...something “unforgivable”.
Gyllenhaal also playing Tony Hastings, the main character of the novel who is enjoying a drive with his wife and daughter when out of no where they are run off the road by three, albeit creepy, troublemakers. At this point, I noticed myself and other women in the theater growing nervous and uncomfortable, as we all know too well the loss of power and control we would feel if stranded on the side of a deserted road with three grown men. The scene is a trigger for any women who has ever experienced sexual assault, harassment, or feared for her safety. As we squirm and hold our breath, Tony’s wife and child are indeed brutally murdered, leading the character on a quest for revenge.
So let’s recap. This guy wrote a novel, inspired by his ex-wife, and sent it to her to read it. She can’t sleep at night because she beats herself up so much that she did something “terrible” to him. And apparently it was SO terrible he wrote a novel about his wife being raped and murdered. Right.
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