Starring: Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, Damon Herriman, Baykali Ganambarr
The Nightingale premiered at the 75th Venice International Film Festival.
In 2014, Jennifer Kent burst onto the scene with her haunting and impressive directorial debut The Babadook. The filmmaker placed the grieving experience of a single mother under the spotlight by invoking fear and sadness as well as some sense of compassion too. The woman had been deeply hurt, and so the healing process had to be painful as well.
This troubling but impressive priority set the tone and raised the bar for Kent's follow-up feature, The Nightingale. The film revisits a gruelling period of Australian history, telling the story of Claire, a 21-year-old Irish convict in Tasmania, 1825, who seeks revenge when a British officer sexually abuses her, before then brutally murdering her husband and baby.
She sets off to find justice, accompanied by Billy, an aboriginal tracker. They find common ground: 'You know what it's like to have a white fella take everything you have', Claire tells Billy.
The Nightingale is not a film of subtext or suggestions – the harrowing facts are depicted with cruel proximity. Claire is kept alive for her sweet singing voice and to entertain the men keeping her prisoner. There's little release, as violence begets violence and injustice turns into anger and few people make it out alive.
Retelling this moment in history, almost unbelievably harrowing and injust, requires such a level of graphic brutality, but the moral compass of The Nightingale still feels misguided and unfair. There's no subversion of the abuse Claire suffers, her end goal is clear from the start and so the results are legitimate, but hardly rewarding.
The violence is relentless, and only a minute sliver of hope, in a brief monologue delivered by Claire, manages to anchor this story and give it some kind of stimulating purpose. So much is focused on her suffering, and while the men are certainly not absolved, there's nowhere to go to find solace for the future in this film.
Reviewed at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival: London. The Nightingale is yet to receive a UK release date.
|What||The Nightingale film review|
02 Aug 19 – 02 Aug 20, TIMES VARY
|Price||£ determined by cinemas|
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