By S. Jhoanna Robledo,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Stylish, stylized, remote drama is violent, intense.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Memory is long, and forgiveness sometimes takes a circuitous route.
Positive Role Models
Edward is kind and passionate about his art, while Susan has good intentions.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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Everything from "bitch" and "s--t" to "f--k."
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Products & Purchases
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.
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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.
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Where to Watch
Videos and Photos
Based on 8 parent reviews
much more sexual violence than indicated by the reviewer
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There is a r*pe seen
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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?
- In theaters: November 18, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: February 21, 2017
- Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon
- Director: Tom Ford
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, menace, graphic nudity, and language
- Award: Golden Globe
- Last updated: February 18, 2023
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