The Nightingale

Movie Information

The masterful story from The Babadook writer/director Jennifer Kent tells an ugly chapter of Australia’s history, but its unremitting violence may disturb many moviegoers.
Genre: Thriller
Director: Jennifer Kent
Starring: Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, Baykali Ganambarr
Rated: R

In The Nightingale, lauded Australian director/writer Jennifer Kent (The Babadook) persuasively vents her fury against the 19th-century genocide committed by British colonials in Australia. More specifically, her rage is centered on the infamous penal colony on the island now known as Tasmania, where the entire indigenous population, an estimated 6,000 people in nine nations, was wiped out by murder or disease.

Under Kent’s guidance, relentless violence becomes painfully real with a compelling script and jaw-dropping cinematography, which captures the oppressive landscape as well as the clothing, backdrops and language of the times. The cast’s many actors, black and white, are so convincing it seems they’ve spent years living their roles.

The film is set in 1825, the 38th year that England has shipped convicts to Australia. Lovely Clare (Asiling Franciosi, HBO‘s “Game of Thrones”) sings so beautifully that most English soldiers call her “The Nightingale,” though others curse her as “Irish convict scum.” After suffering unspeakable brutality by Lt. Hawkins (Sam Claflin, Their Finest), Clare seeks revenge and vows to track him to his new assignment across the country with merely her horse, a few trinkets and an indigenous tracker named Billy (Baykali Ganambarr, excellent in his film debut).

At odds with one another but bound by hatred of the British, she and Billy set off. With aching suspense, they battle a hellish nightmare of furious rivers, giant leeches, lynched indigenous people, marauding escaped convicts and trigger-happy settlers. One night, Billy reveals his real name to Clare — Mangano, which means blackbird. They at last see one another as kindred spirits, and as Nightingale and Blackbird, they send their voices flying to the moonlit sky before returning to the terrifying reality still facing them.

As a powerful, important film, The Nightingale deserves 5 stars. Alas, its 136 minutes of endless, horrific violence means I can recommend it only with caution.

Starts Aug. 23 at Grail Moviehouse

About Marcianne Miller
Marcianne Miller worked production in Hollywood for many years and wrote movie reviews In L.A. and Asheville, radio and print including Mountain Xpress (during Ken Hanke's first 5 years), Rapid River and Bold Life. Member: SEFCA and NCFCA.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

One thought on “The Nightingale

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.