"Why Nocturnal Animals is the best and most disturbing movie of the year."

In an age where we blow through movies and television shows like Tic Tacs, it’s hard to find a storyline and characters that stay with you long after the cinema lights have reappeared.

But that’s exactly what Nocturnal Animals, the new psychological thriller from director/writer Tom Ford, does.

I experienced the film a month before it was released in cinemas, at a special preview event that featured a Q&A with Mr Ford himself after the movie had wrapped.

Which was a good thing, because he had a lot to answer for.

At this time, the movie itself wasn’t really on anybody’s radar. It didn’t fall into the highly anticipated blockbuster catagory, nor was there talk of it edging into the early Oscars race.

Amy Adams in Nocturnal Animals.

As the audience filed into the cinema there was a heady sense of excitement in the air, with many of us clutching our third glass of complimentary champagne. But once the movie kicked into action this cheerful atmosphere was quickly replaced with a stifling sense of anxiety and despair.

Nocturnal Animals is partially in the glittering world of Los Angeles and opens on Susan (Amy Adams), an unhappily married and successful gallery owner who receives a manuscript penned by her first husband, even though she has not seen him for years and the relationship ended in a blur of pain and betrayal.

When she settles down to read the manuscript, called Nocturnal Animals, the audience is transported into the book alongside her and scene quickly flips from an imposing concrete LA mansion to the dark back-roads of Texas.

Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal, who has a dual role in the film) is on a late night road trip with his wife and young daughter when they are run off the road by a group of men.

What follows is a tense, suffocating standoff that sucked all the air out of the cinema.

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nocturnal Animals.

It wasn't the violence played out on screen — we see far worse on free-to-air TV — or the threat of sexual violence, a plot device that is pulled out frequently to push a story forward.

In this case, it was the pure hopelessness of the desperate situation that had us all clutching the cinema chairs and praying for the scene to end.

This moment itself is long and often claustrophobic. We watch as Tony's wife Laura (played to terrified perfection by Isla Fisher) and the family face off against these men, and at this time you almost want the movie to cross over from psychological thriller to violent, over-the-top slasher fare.


I prayed for a man in a novelty mask to emerge from the shadows with a absurdly sized knife to add an air of cheesy, B-grade horror campness to the flick, but no such relief ever came.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson is terrifying in Nocturnal Animals.

Instead we were left with the brutal reality of what normal human beings are capable off, and that will always be more terrifying than a fictional villain providing a cheap jump scare from the shadows.

Not only is Nocturnal Animals captivating and suspenseful, it's also extremely beautiful. Even in its moments of extreme trauma.

Not that you would expect anything less from Tom Ford, the film's director and writer who is best known as a famed fashion designer and the creative director at Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent.

"To be perfectly honest, Nocturnal Animals is a difficult movie to stomach."

The costumes are dripping with hidden details and the shots, both in the glamours world of LA and the violent, gritty roads of Texas, are sumptuous and beguiling to the extreme.

In fact, if you find yourself unable to sit through the film's graphic content, I'd actually recommend watching the film on mute and slowly fast-forwarding through its array of stunning shots.

It's a feast of the eyes as much as it is a triumphant of bold storytelling.

To be perfectly honest, Nocturnal Animals is a difficult movie to stomach.

Michael Shannon, Jake Gyllenhaal and Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Nocturnal Animals.

When the cinema lights finally flicked back on and I'd taken a few moments to compose myself, I turned to my equally shell-shocked journo buddy and whispered, "That was the best movie I've seen this year. But I will never sit through it again."

She agreed with me that it was brilliant but disagreed that it was a one-time deal, vowing to see it again as soon as it was released to the public, with all of her friends and family in tow.

I guess some people have no sense of self-preservation.

But please, don't let my post-movie fear turn you away. Nocturnal Animals is not only a film that deserves to be seen, it deserves to be seen in a cinema, aided by complete darkness and without the distraction of a phone or loved one to offer you relief from the story.

Maybe just treat yourself to some comforting ice-cream afterwards.

Nocturnal Animals is in cinemas now.

You can follow Mamamia Entertainment Editor Laura Brodnik on Facebook. 

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