Nocturnal Animals Movie Explained
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Nocturnal Animals Movie Explained

Nocturnal Animals is a 2016 American psychological thriller directed by Tom Ford. It stars Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon. The film tells the story of a wealthy art gallery owner whose ex-husband sends her a manuscript of his latest novel. The novel is a suspenseful tale that revolves around a man seeking revenge against the men who brutally assaulted his daughter and wife. As the woman reads the novel, her past experiences begin to intertwine with what she reads in the book, leading to an emotional and thrilling journey for viewers. This article will provide an overview of Nocturnal Animals’ plot, themes, and symbolism in order to help readers understand this complex movie.

Nocturnal Animals is an intricate movie that explores various themes such as love, loss, revenge and justice. While it appears straightforward on its surface, the film’s complexity lies in its intricate plot structure and use of symbolism throughout the story. Through its exploration of these complicated topics, Nocturnal Animals presents an emotionally engaging experience for viewers. In this article we will explore how each element of the movie works together to create this intense cinematic experience.

Plot Overview

Nocturnal Animals is a 2016 American psychological thriller film written, produced, and directed by Tom Ford. The movie, based on the 1993 novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright, follows a woman named Susan Morrow as she reads her ex-husband’s manuscript about a violent incident that occurred to his family. Through the story, Susan is forced to confront her own past and current life choices. Ford’s aesthetic choices in the movie have an emotional impact on the audience which allows them to better understand the characters’ inner struggles.

The visual elements of the movie are very powerful in terms of conveying emotional depth. Cinematography plays an important role in the film – it captures the surreal quality of Susan’s mental state while also conveying her existential crisis. Hundreds of delicate shots bring out strong emotions from viewers as they explore deeper layers of meaning beneath each scene. Furthermore, color palettes help create moods that further enhance the narrative arc of Susan’s story, making audiences feel more connected to her personal journey.


The themes of fearful bonding and emotional conflict are prominent throughout the nocturnal animals movie. Through the use of suspenseful cinematography, haunting music, and intense acting, these themes are brought to life in a way that provokes an emotional response from viewers.

The story revolves around a wealthy art gallery owner named Susan Morrow, who receives a manuscript from her ex-husband Tony Hastings. The manuscript tells the story of Tony’s family being attacked on a road trip, which parallels Susan’s own troubled past with Tony and her current struggles with her second husband Hutton. This dual narrative creates an atmosphere of tension as both stories build suspense and explore the theme of fearful bonding between characters. It also explores the idea of emotional conflict between characters, particularly Susan’s ongoing struggle between loyalty to her husband Hutton versus her feelings for Tony, who she still cares about deeply.

The movie effectively conveys its messages about human relationships through these themes in a powerful way that resonates with audiences. Through this exploration of fear, bonding and emotion it captures their attention until the very end.


Nocturnal Animals is a film that has been praised for its creative use of animal metaphors to represent deeper themes and ideas. The nocturnal creatures featured in the movie play a prominent role in this symbolic representation, with many of their characteristics being used as metaphors for various aspects of the characters’ personalities and relationships. In particular, the owls are often used to symbolize wisdom and perception, while the foxes represent cunningness and resilience. Additionally, certain nocturnal animals appear throughout the film to represent major plot points or motifs. For example, during one scene a pack of wolves is shown to signify fear, danger, and death; while a swarm of bats represents chaos and confusion. These animal metaphors serve an important purpose in establishing both atmosphere and narrative development within the film.

The symbolism embedded within Nocturnal Animals also serves to enhance viewers’ appreciation for subtle nuances within the story. By using nocturnal creatures as symbols for certain themes or ideas, audiences are encouraged to get more out of the story by connecting its surface level events with its underlying messages. This technique brings depth to scenes which would otherwise lack complexity or intrigue, allowing viewers to engage with the film on multiple levels. As such, it is clear that these animal metaphors have an integral role in conveying meaningful messages throughout Nocturnal Animals without detracting from its overall storytelling capabilities.

Character Development

Nocturnal Animals is a film that examines the complexities and moral implications of gender roles in society. The story follows the protagonist, Susan Morrow, as she confronts her former husband, Edward Sheffield, whom she has not seen in twenty years. Edward sends her a manuscript of his novel, which tells the story of Tony Hastings and his family who are terrorized by three criminals. As Susan reads the novel, she begins to reflect on her own life choices and how they were affected by gender roles.

The film explores how gender roles can influence decisions and affect relationships. In the beginning of the film, Susan has achieved success but is emotionally detached from her husband and daughter. She views them as obstacles in achieving her goals. However, as she reads Edward’s novel and reflects on their relationship, she comes to terms with what she sacrificed for career success. Similarly, Tony Hastings’ wife is presented as a strong female figure who stands up for herself against male aggression but eventually succumbs to it out of fear for her family’s safety. These character arcs demonstrate how gender roles can have significant moral implications on relationships both within families and society at large. By examining these complexities through its characters, Nocturnal Animals provides an insightful commentary on gender roles in contemporary culture.


The cinematography of the nocturnal animals movie is notable for its use of visual effects and lighting. The film’s visuals are intertwined with a sense of dream-like surrealism, creating a unique atmosphere that emphasizes the internal struggles of the characters. Many scenes were shot at night or in low light, emphasizing the mysterious and secretive nature of the plot. This also gives a greater emphasis to the lighting effects used throughout, which range from dark shadows to bright flashes of light meant to emphasize certain moments. The camera movement too is often slow and steady, giving it an ethereal feel that perfectly matches the overall tone of the film. Overall, the cinematography brings out some incredible visual effects and lighting to create an emotionally charged atmosphere that is both captivating and suspenseful.


The nocturnal animals movie’s soundtrack is an integral part of the overall cinematic experience. It contains a number of melodic motifs and themes that are intertwined throughout the film, driving home the tone and setting the mood for each scene. The soundtrack was composed by Abel Korzeniowski, who has won a number of awards for his work.

Korzeniowski’s score is both intense and mesmerizing, as he utilizes sound to create an emotional connection between the audience and characters. His use of subtle yet powerful music helps to reinforce the themes of love, loss, and redemption that are present throughout the film. It also serves to heighten the tension in key scenes, making them all the more impactful.

The nocturnal animals movie is further enhanced with a mix of classical music pieces that serve to punctuate certain moments in the film. These pieces were carefully selected to invoke an array of emotions within viewers, as they connect with different aspects of each scene. Furthermore, they help to demonstrate how Korzeniowski creates a cinematic atmosphere that is immersive and engaging. Overall, it can be said that the music used in this movie expertly supports its narrative.

Analysis And Conclusion

Nocturnal Animals is a powerful exploration of family dynamics and moral choices. The film follows the story of Susan Morrow, a successful art gallery owner who receives a novel manuscript from her ex-husband Edward Sheffield. Through the novel, Edward conveys his feelings about their failed relationship, exploring issues such as betrayal, loss and regret. Through the contrasting storylines in both the real world and within the novel, Nocturnal Animals examines how our decisions can have far reaching consequences for ourselves and those we love.

The film’s protagonists are forced to confront difficult decisions in both worlds, as they must ultimately choose between revenge or redemption. In doing so, they come to understand that in life there are no easy answers, but that ultimately it is up to them to make their own moral choices. The characters’ individual journeys demonstrate how our actions can shape our future relationships with others and ourselves. By the end of the film we are left with an understanding of how powerful these choices can be and that even when faced with tragedy, hope remains.


Nocturnal Animals is a complex character study and exploration of themes. Through its symbolism, cinematography, and music, the movie conveys its messages in a powerful way. The characters are developed in depth, with complexities that come to life through their interactions and decisions. From start to finish, this film is an emotional journey that resonates with viewers for a long time after viewing. It effectively captures the nuances of relationships and reveals the depths of our emotions in a way that few films can match. Nocturnal Animals is an expertly crafted work of art that will remain relevant for years to come.

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