Nocturnal Animals. Tom Ford’s second feature film after the 2009, and phenomenal, A Single Man is not quite up to that standard, but it gets damn close. This story within a story, in which Amy Adams plays a woman who receives a manuscript of a novel from an ex-husband, is played out in a narratively unconventional way. It is full of intrigue, suspense and philosophy, looking lovely throughout. Michael Shannon is great fun to watch, as he always is, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson revels in his villainess shitbag role, but the rest of the cast are also on top form. I am hoping that we do not have to wait for another seven years to see Ford’s next film.
Arrival. The second brilliant Amy Adams film of the month, and the slightly better one. The sound and visual design on this sci-fi is just incredible and is what makes what would have been a good film into one of the year’s best. Director Denis Villeneuve has been one to watch in the last few years – Incendies, Enemy, Prisoners, Sicario all great but perhaps missing that…something, to make it that bit better – well, with Arrival, he found that something and I am now very very intrigued by his next project, Blade Runner 2049. Adams performance may be a career best; she perhaps has more to work with here than in Nocturnal Animals and handles it perfectly. The themes of time and of working together were handled well, but there are unfortunate American exceptionalism tones. Though, this might just be a symptom of the writer and studios nationalities and, to be fair, even though Adams character gets the main breakthroughs, there is a team effort from the other countries.
American Pastoral. Ewan McGregor’s feature directional debut is a disappointing one. A decent idea, perhaps; definitely filled with decent ideas, but a bit of a mess overall. The point of it all seems a bit lost and it felt a bit disconnected somehow. I have not read Philip Roth’s novel, which the film was adapted from, but I imagine the political undercurrents and setting were better handled; they seemed a bit forced or mishandled here.
A United Kingdom. An interesting and moving true story, competently yet blandly told. Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo play Ruth Williams and Prince Seretse Khama, a couple who caused a right international stir by marrying each other in the late 1940s. The late great Tony Benn comes out well from this, as he was one of their main supporters in parliament (they even named one of their children after him); Churchill comes off somewhat worse, the Tory douchebag.
FILM OF THE MONTH: Arrival