by Tony Medley
Runtime 116 minutes.
Not for children.
Inspired by Austin
Wright’s novel, Tony and Susan (1993), this is a complex tale of
a lonely woman, Susan Morrow (Amy Adams), who is involved in cold
marriage to Hutton (Arnie Hammer). She gets a manuscript in the mail
from her first husband, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal). She starts
reading it after Hutton leaves on an obvious pretext to continue an
affair with another woman, and the movie is a juxtaposition between
Susan’s life as she is living it, and her interpretation of Edward’s
brutal story about Tony and Laura Hastings (Gyllenhaal and Isla Fisher,
respectively) and their daughter, India (Ellie Bamber), who are accosted
on a deserted highway by a ring of bad guys led by Ray Marcus (Aaron
One feels that Susan
views Edward’s tale as a metaphor for her life, and that he is speaking
directly to her.
While for the most
part the acting is good, the most affecting performance is given by
Michael Shannon who plays Bobby Andes, the laconic policeman who
investigates what happened to the Hastings. Gyllenhaal is effective as
the husband in the novel. I’m not sure why Adams signed on to this
because not much is required of her other than to look depressed and
This is a constantly
tense downer, written and directed by Tom Ford. The theme is loneliness,
and it’s expertly captured by the cinematography (Seamus McGarvey), the
production design (Shane Valentino) and the music (Abel
The problem with the film is that the story within the story is better
than the story. Edward’s novel is much more interesting and developed
than Susan’s life. In fact, the conclusion one is likely to reach about
Susan is, so what? If Ford had asked me for comments on his script, I
would have told him to dump Susan and just tell the story of Edward’s
novel and leave it at that. He raises issues about Susan and her life
and then just leaves them hanging.
This won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but I don’t think anyone will fall
asleep watching it, at least while they are watching Edward’s
suspenseful novel, which is the better part of the movie, and that may
be taken both ways.