If there's one thing to be learnt from Tom Ford's career as a fashion designer, it's that bad taste can only be put to good use in the right context. Gaudy, showy tackiness, like any other style of artistic expression, lacks the integrity to get by on its own virtues alone; Ford's previous film, A Single Man, provided him with the right context for such stylistic flamboyance, both excusing and elevating it. Nocturnal Animals provides no such context - it's a shallow, simplistic thriller, formulaic pulp in which Ford finds no formal inspiration nor emotional depth that might offer similar excuse or elevation. Here is yet another film that exalts and encourages its own vacuousness, ostensibly as a comment on the parallel vacuousness of its characters and their circumstances - this is not a tack worth taking, if I may offer advice to filmmakers such as Ford, since too few viewers are especially enthusiastic about being bored by listless artistic exercises in meaninglessness, and since there's way too much money, talent and effort that appears to have gone into creating this particular exercise. Ford's aesthetic conceits lack innovation and purpose, though exquisitely captured in Seamus McGarvey's cinematography, and his narrative lacks richness and propulsion; for all that Nocturnal Animals initially seems to promise exciting developments, it never truly makes those promises, and never delivers those developments. It's a vapid mystery movie in which the biggest mystery of all regards what its characters are thinking - impenetrable questions with facile answers. Were it not for the contributions of McGarvey, composer Abel Korzeniowski - his grasp of pastiche is infinitely stronger than his director's - and star Michael Shannon, whose caustic comedic input immeasurably enlivens proceedings, Nocturnal Animals would amount to one massive mystery in itself: why was this film ever even made?