It’s been six years since fashion designer Tom Ford stunned audiences and critics alike with his film adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s novel, A Single Man. Now, it seems his second project is on its way at last, with confirmation that, not only has he adapted another novel, but that he will again direct the film, with George Clooney and Grant Heslov producing the project through Smokehouse Pictures. The film will be titled Nocturnal Animals.
Nocturnal Animals is not the title of the source material, however, but rather the title of the book-within-the-book that is titled Tony And Susan. Written by Austin Wright and published in 1993, it is characterized a postmodern noir thriller. In the story, a woman named Susan is surprised to receive a book manuscript through the mail. It is from her former husband – a man she divorced 20 years previously due to his ambition to be an author. Now, apropos of nothing, he is requesting her opinion on his draft novel, Nocturnal Animals.
As she begins to read, she finds the draft to be a compelling tale about a man named Tony, who drives through the night with his wife and daughter, on their way to a vacation. Things begin to go terribly wrong for the family in the book, however, and Susan begins to recognize something of herself in Tony. As both the book-within-the-book and the novel itself unfold, Susan is forced to confront some uncomfortable truths about herself.
It certainly sounds ambitious and, unsurprisingly, despite its early stage status, there is a vast amount of interest in the project. With Tom Ford confirmed for the director’s chair, speculation is inevitably swirling regarding casting. Clearly, there is a strong female lead to be had, although the structure of the story in the source material could be considered problematic. The book-within-the-book relies upon the standard theme of the murder of female characters at the apparent hands of men, while the overall idea – a man sending his ex-wife a book manuscript so she can take a good look at herself – smacks of the ultimate ‘mansplanation’ strategy. As such, it will be interesting to see if Nocturnal Animals will be a film the whole audience can enjoy, or if it will be yet another title for the passive-aggressive misogyny pile.