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From writer/ director Jennifer Kent, who made The Babadook, The Nightingale is an Aussie adventure painted in beautiful horror, as a young woman heads out for revenge. I didn’t like The Babadook if I’m honest. The Babadook came with lots of hype, Peter Bradshaw’s jizzum dripping from it. Despite that, The Nightingale had people whose opinion I actually trust saying it was good (cheers to John at For Your Eyes Only).
Clare (Aisling Franciosi), a young Irish convict essentially suffering indentured servitude at the hands of the ever so creepy British Army Officer Hawkins (Sam Claflin), is horribly put in a position where she wants revenge and seeks it with Aboriginal tracker, Billy. Trust me, you will want retribution too. This is Tasmania in 1825, an unforgiving part of the shame that is/was the British Colonial terrors. Hold on to that comment, it is important not just for The Nightingale.
The Nightingale could crudely and unkindly be called a rape revenge movie. So I won’t do that, but it is a warning. The premise is simple, sure, but everything about the film is rather brilliant; from the aspect ratio, kind of a square* like in A Ghost Story, only not shit and boring like A Ghost Story, to the colours and beautiful simplicity of its visuals. The fact that you’ll know the actors (except for newcomer Baykali Ganambarr) but not be able to really place them helps. Every performance stinks with the realism of the challenging time, place and situation.
That was meant as a compliment.
Hawkins and pretty much every Englishman in The Nightingale, are presented as such bastards I had to check Mel Gibson didn’t have a credit. While a little crude, it works and frankly there’s more than a little evidence to support that the film’s atrocity isn’t born out of thin air.Now. Rape. A lot of blogs and podcasts have “trigger warnings” about certain content that might offend or upset you. While I get that, Bedsit Cinema isn’t one. Every single part of The Nightingale’s publicity lets you know what you might be in for and frankly if something might affect you that much, to an extent the onus is on you to be careful not every other person on your behalf. We all have things which haunt and hurt us, and while I feel for you, I also expect you to be a grown up about it.
There is a lot of rape in The Nightingale. It’s horrible but not exploitative, justifying (alongside the other awful violence) the mission Clare is on.
As Clare closes in on Hawkins the claret starts spewing and she and Billy face the daunting reality of a world set out by the bastard British to deny them anything at all, let alone retribution. I was hooked. You'll be enraptured with searing rage and also stunned by The Nightingale’s presentation, the film is a hard watch but one which is worth it.
Brilliant, brutal, beautiful and understated, The Nightingale has helped kick off 2020 in a wonderful way. One month in to the year this, Patton and 1917** are all a solid 9/10
*I’m not technical