Last weekend I made two visits to The Lighthouse to see two just-released films, both of which starred Amy Adams: Arrival and Nocturnal Animals.
Nocturnal Animals is definitely one of the best movies I’ve seen this year (it helps that it stars two of my favourite actors, Michael Shannon and Jake Gyllenhaal). It’s the second film written, produced and directed by designer Tom Ford. Adams plays Susan, an art gallery owner living an aspirational life in LA: chic wardrobe, stunning house, successful career, handsome husband. She is contacted by her ex-husband who sends her a book he has written and dedicated to her, called Nocturnal Animals. The novel is set in Texas and is a revenge thriller, brutally violent and unsettling, and the viewer sees it enacted as a film within a film. The book throws Susan’s life into disarray and she begins to reflect on her past relationship and on her current life with her husband.
Nocturnal Animals is a huge shift in tone from A Single Man, much more visceral and plot driven, yet perfect in its observation of details which is a hallmark of Ford’s aesthetic. The entire cast are wonderful and the cinematography by Irishman Seamus McGarvey is breathtaking, whether he’s capturing the dust and searing heat of West Texas or the polished perfection of upmarket LA. I honestly can’t recommend Nocturnal Animals enough.
Next up was Arrival, a sci-fi thriller starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner and directed by Denis Villeneuve. The title refers to the appearance of twelve spacecraft at different locations around the world. Louise Banks (Adams) is a linguist and Ian Donnelly (Renner) is a theoretical physicist who have been drafted into a team lead by US Army Colonel Weber (Forrest Whitaker) to visit the alien site in Montana and make first contact. Louise and Ian end up in conflict with military forces in America and around the globe; the scientists advocate trust and diplomacy, whereas the army guys want to bomb the aliens to smithereens, just to be on the safe side. The analogy is a little heavy-handed but not so much that it ruins the film.
A friend of mine described The Martian as a ‘love letter to science’ and I feel like Arrival is similar. It’s a love letter to the power of language, the effectiveness of communication versus action.
Afterwards I checked out Amy Adams’ filmography and realised that I’ve seen almost all of her movies. She has such multi-faceted range, from a naive princess in the hilarious Enchanted to a genius conwoman in American Hustle, a young and innocent nun in Doubt to a feisty no-bullshit barmaid in The Fighter. Her characters are so fully realised that it’s hard to imagine any other actress in the role. Adams has been nominated for an Academy Award five times, 2017 must surely be her year to win.