Nocturnal Animals

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Nocturnal Animals Movie Poster Image
Stylish, stylized, remote drama is violent, intense.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 116 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

Memory is long, and forgiveness sometimes takes a circuitous route.

Positive role models & representations

Edward is kind and passionate about his art, while Susan has good intentions.

Violence

Lots, and sometimes it's very intense. Groping and sexual assault, harassment on the road (including a car trying to force another off the road), abduction, rape (viewers don't see it, but it's clear what's about to happen), and murder. Naked, dead bodies are shown; the blows to their heads are pretty visible. A scene shows a man in a brutal fight that end in gunshots and death.

Sex

Nudity in opening sequence. A couple is shown after sex, with a woman's naked back visible. Flirting and kissing. A man is shown on the toilet, practically naked, wiping his backside. 

Language

Everything from "bitch" and "s--t" to "f--k."

Consumerism

Wealth is signaled through products, including iPhone, Apple, and Mercedes Benz.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Plenty of social drinking, sometimes to excess. References to needing pills to calm yourself down. A man with lung cancer smokes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nocturnal Animals is a fascinating but ultimately remote drama about deceit, misogyny, marital conflict, murder, and heartbreak -- a moody, morbid stew that's too mature for all but the oldest teens. Gruesome scenes show murdered bodies, and there are many other moments of violence, plus close-up shots that show the aftermath of struggles and fights. There's also smoking, drinking (mostly social, some depressingly isolated), and pill-popping, as well as nudity (some sexual, some not; some scatological) and plenty of swearing (including "s--t" and "f--k). Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaall co-star.

User Reviews

Adult Written byStevie111 December 12, 2016

Interesting, Dark Film with Great Performances

The film technically is extremely well done. The directing and acting (especially Aaron Taylor-Johnson) are fantastic. It's visually very cool also. But, i... Continue reading
Adult Written byTom K. March 23, 2017

much more sexual violence than indicated by the reviewer

unfortunately common sense media drops the ball on this one. Along with the violence described above, there's the simulated gang rape of an underage girl,... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byTornadosplash44 December 28, 2016

One the best thrillers of the year!!!!!!!

This movie was much better than what I thought! It had plenty of suspense and I loved that the main character was reading a novel and the film would give you a... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byHarry.trax January 23, 2017

Good but predictable!

Good psychological thriller! Has great visual and soundtrack and many messages. Really good acting and great performances. The story is predictable and not so c... Continue reading

What's the story?

In NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, Susan (Amy Adams) is a fairly successful museum curator married to a banker (Armie Hammer) who may or may not be on the cusp of losing his fortune but is most definitely having an affair. Then a package arrives at their house, accompanied by a note from Susan's long-estranged ex-husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaall). He's a novelist, and he's just sent her his about-to-be-published book, which is dedicated to her. Susan reads it, and she's soon pulled into the world Edward has created -- a place where a husband, Tony (Gyllenhaall) and a cop with a cancerous death sentence (Michael Shannon) try to avenge the ghastliest crime committed against him and his wife and daughter.

Is it any good?

Though it's visually stunning, there's something clinical about the way this drama dissects the relationships it depicts, no matter the heat, anxiety, fear, and passion at their heart. Even its gut-wrenching performances, specifically Gyllenhaal's, can't wrench Nocturnal Animals back to its beating-heart center, rendering it more aloof than it needs to be -- or should be.

That's a pity, because the film is revelatory in some ways, a study in how heartbreak can be as savage as physical assault. The story-within-a-story structure works, for the most part, though it also halts the momentum at times. Still, Nocturnal Animals -- which was inspired by Austin Wright's book Tony and Susan -- is worth watching. And not just for Adams, who's impressive here (as is Laura Linney in a small-but-pivotal role as Susan's mother), but also to witness writer-director Tom Ford's confidence. If only the film more closely embraced the emotions at its core.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Nocturnal Animals' violence. There's a lot of it, but it's shown in a very stylized way. How does that affect the impact of the crimes?

  • How does the movie's look and feel relate to its subject matter?

  • Why does Susan seem so adrift? What about her world makes her feel lost?

  • Who do you think the movie is intended to appeal to? How can you tell?

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

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