First Published with Starskify – 14th November 2016
Living what seems to be the life of luxury, art gallery owner Susan is dragging herself through an unhappy marriage and an unsatisfying work life. After the delivery of an abnormal package from her ex-husband, her mind becomes enthralled in the novel manuscript she’s been gifted with and thoughts drift back to memories of her life with Edward. Dedicated to her, the book depicts a character doubling as Edward, battling dark and enthralling circumstances.
It’s an enthralling thriller, illustrated through fascinating visuals. Entirely unpredictable, the story doesn’t hold back when it comes down to inflicting shocking graphics. The opening scenes in particular easily stand out due to the admirable sleek artistic values. Verging on uncomfortable, the slow-motion appearance of dancing naked women are uncovered to be part of the protagonist’s exhibit held at the gallery. It’s clear to see the evidence of Tom Ford’s handiwork on the feature, coming from a fashion expertise background. The appealing and stylish lure is one to be admired.
Swiftly moving forward, a poignant scene lays in the opening chapters of Edward’s novel. Envisioning him in the protagonist role, Susan conceptualizes a prolonged endeavor of disturbance when a gang of crude assailants confronts him, his wife and daughter. This particular segment spans a large amount of time, thoroughly exposing the characters, thus encouraging emotional set up for the rest of the novel section of the film.
Strands of narrative are intertwined together and bound through the imagination and memories of Amy Adams’ Susan. It’s a complex and twisted feature, evident through the structure and content. But it works. An alluring appeal is visualized through contrasts of glamorous surroundings of the present day and the tragic appearance of Susan’s character and the fictional conjuration she imagines from Edward’s novel. As a character, she’s a fragile creature, still haunted by her life choices regarding her ex-husband. The story she quickly reads through troubles her thoroughly, unable to consider anything else around her for the duration. Clearly miserable with her current situations, the novel acts as her only companionship for many sleepless nights. A companion which only holds sorrow and a recollection of what once was a better time in her life.
The cast gracefully reflects the stunning cinematography, each with the capabilities to completely captivate and engage any viewer. Both Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal lead the two sides of the narrative tangents with ease, both embodying extreme emotions of distress and tribulation in a way that deeply connects to the viewer. Gyllenhaal reflects the family-driven fiction as well as the romantic attraction that is shown in flashbacks. Another highlight that needs to be accentuated is the ingenious cast of Isla Fisher. Occasionally to have been mistaken with Adams by spectators, she brilliantly conveys Edward’s fictional wife impeccably.
But it’s Aaron Taylor-Johnson that proves to be the surprising performance as the deadbeat antagonist Ray. Almost unrecognisable behind the rugged facial hair, he withholds a strong deposition of hostility and brutality. He forces himself into scenes with such dominance, that even the audience can begin to feel threatened by his presence.
This is a movie dedicated to the visuals. A brilliant example of how overlaying stories can work together harmoniously, without avoiding a mountain of confusion. A film of many layers, each cleverly employing together to create a piece of emotional strain.