Director: Jennifer Kent
Cast: Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, Baykali Ganambarr, Damon Herriman, Harry Greenwood, Ewen Leslie, Michael Sheasby and Charlie Shotwell
Reviewed By: Dion Wyn
Jennifer Kent’s horrifying debut The Babadook set a new benchmark for Australian filmmakers. She encapsulated horror and tackled mental health issues on the head. A true horror film for the ages. Kent is in competition with her latest The Nightingale. Not much information was available prior to the premier, but anticipation was very high! The Nightingale is set in 1825, Clare (Aisling Franciosi), a young Irish convict woman, chases a British officer (Sam Claflin) through the rugged Tasmanian wilderness, bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence he committed against her family. On the way she enlists the services of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy (Baykali Ganambarr), who is also marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past.
The Nightingale is a brutally harrowing tale from Jennifer Kent. The brutality of women and ethnicities is ruthlessly portrayed, but comradery and justice prevails in the end. Clare suffers a vast amount of abuse from Claflin’s Hawkins. Her determination for justice and resolution is truly powerful. Framed in academy ratio Clare’s journey of revenge takes us through the Tasmanian outback. The ratio enables Kent to show the claustrophobia of the journey. The use of close up shots becomes the window into our protagonists soul. Kent’s dark and gruesome tone is the key to open Clare’s inner most thoughts and actions. The doom and gloom may be prominent but there is a light heartedness through this harrowing tale.
Clare finds Billy an Aborigine to guide her through the bush. The tension between the British and the natives are gruesomely tense during this period. The tension between them at the beginning is difficult. As their journey unfolds they grow a bond and become equals. You will see a blossoming relationship between them with a lot of humour. Humanity triumphs in this tale and Kent’s poignancy is a masterstroke. The initial incident that begins this journey is purely disturbing. The shock factor is what Kent uses to open our eyes to the brutality that women have suffered for centuries. Unfortunately we are still living in dark times of domestic violence and Kent wants us to wake up.
The use of Gaelic and Aboriginal songs convey the pain of our protagonists. It is a beautiful way to show emotion be it happiness or anger. The use of these unique languages is a breath of fresh air. Identity is very important to them and you can feel the embrace for their culture and traditions. Aisling Franciosi gives a powerhouse performance as Clare. You can feel the pain in her eyes along with her singing. The anger she conveys is raw and uncontainable. She is a major contender this awards season. Baykali Ganambarr as Billy is in the same boat as Aisling. It feels like a mirror image performance. No doubt we will see him in the mix this season too. The Nightingale is a courageous character study that will open your eyes to what is still happening today . Jennifer Kent has created a film that needs to be seen. One of the strongest and most poignant films at Venice this year.