I love movies. I’ve been an avid movie watcher for most of my life. When the Oscars roll around every year in February, time stops in my house. I turn on the DVR and don’t move for about three hours. My husband and two kids know that evening is “mine”. They’re welcome to join me, sit down and watch, but don’t ask me to do anything and don’t interrupt except during the commercials. This is “Mom’s time”.
I follow the Oscars because I want to see the actors and actresses involved in the movies – outside the venue of the movie. Watch how they react to being nominated, how they look when they win or lose, who their spouses are, how they congratulate their fellow actors. Essentially, what they’re like off-screen. I especially love to hear what they say when they win and sometimes when they lose. It makes them more “real”.
They’re not playing a part when they’re thanking their parents and spouses and agents and friends for helping them climb the ladder to their present-day success. I don’t care what they’re wearing as they walk the Red Carpet. That doesn’t really appeal to me that much. I like to hear what they say while they’re being interviewed. You can tell a lot about a person’s attitude toward fame and fortune when they’re not on the movie screen.
Most of the time, however, the movies that win the Academy Awards for Best Picture aren’t the ones I end up watching and loving the most. For example, the 2016 movie Nocturnal Animals with Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson is one of my favorite movies of all time. I’ve watched it four times so far. And there will be a fifth time soon when I watch it with my son. The plot follows a divorced art gallery owner, Amy Adams, as she reads the new novel written by her ex-husband, Jake Gyllenhaal, and begins to see the similarities between it and their former relationship.
When I first saw Nocturnal Animals, I was hit by the emotionality that permeated every scene. The moment we’re introduced to Amy Adams it’s obvious she’s not a happy woman, though she’s rich and married to a gorgeous, successful man. She receives a copy of her ex-husband Jake Gyllenhaal’s book and begins reading it while her husband is away, having an affair with another woman. Her marriage is on the rocks and she knows it. Her marriage to Jake had failed because she didn’t believe he’d make it as an author. She didn’t believe in him.
One of the most wrenching scenes in the book Amy is reading, is when the husband (Jake) and wife (Amy) and their young daughter are driving down a long, lonely highway in the middle of the night and are harassed by a group of drunk young men who force them off the road. The husband (played by Jake) doesn’t want to stop the car. It’s obvious if he does, something bad is going to happen because the young men are not only drunk, they’re itching for a fight. And Jake and his wife (Amy Adams) and their daughter are the targets of the young men’s anger at the world. What happens next is horrific and sad. Ray (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) forces the wife and daughter into his vehicle and drives away, leaving Jake with the other scum bag who holds him back from helping his family in any way.
This scene is so thought-provoking. I have a husband and two kids and if this were to happen, I can easily see how the husband is literally helpless to fight against these young guys. He’s outnumbered and he’s at their mercy. After Jake finds his way to the next town, he meets Detective Bobby Andes (Michael Shanon). Bobby is dying of cancer, has nothing to lose, and is determined to bring justice to Jake for the kidnapping of his wife and daughter. The detective does everything he can to not only find out what happened to Jake’s wife and daughter, but when he does, he goes far beyond the “norm” to get hold of Ray and his accomplice who kidnapped Jake’s family.
The acting is superb. The takeaway for me is, I never want to travel on any deserted highway at night no matter where it is. That’s for sure. And I surely will never pull to the side of the road to talk with another driver, if we have an accident. The scene screams, “Don’t stop! Get to the closest town. Now!” But after being pushed off the road, what can you do?
But the main theme of the movie is: how far would you go to exact revenge for such horrific behavior on the part of Ray and his accomplice? Would you break the law to get personal justice for yourself and your family, if the law can’t do it for you? Would you become a criminal and break the law in order to punish those who destroyed your family? What horrible acts would you commit for the lives of the ones you love?
Thought provoking? You betcha. It was sad. It made me mad. It made me think. It was emotional-provoking. You felt such empathy for the characters. You rooted for the victims. You were happy when the bad guys were illegally detained. I “yayed” when the bad guys were dealt with in the same way they treated their victims. Makes you wonder just how far you’d go, right? Would you be willing to become a criminal to exact revenge in the same circumstances?
Great movie. Great acting. Very evocative and captivating. Wow.