The Nightingale

The Nightingale

In Theatres: 
Sep 06, 2019
Running Time: 
136 minutes

It’s been five years since director Jennifer Kent sent chills down my spine with the psychological nightmare that is The Babadook, and I have been eagerly awaiting her next film, The Nightingale. Her films may be classified as horror and thriller, but she eschews from following the typical tropes of the genre to create a film that is uniquely terrifying. The Nightingale is a period revenge film, and while it may be a difficult film to watch, it’ll have you captivated from beginning to end.


Clare Carroll (Aisling Franciosi) is an Irish convict in Tasmania working off her debt as a servant for British Army Lieutenant Hawkins (Sam Claflin). For months, however, she’s been asking the lieutenant about a letter of recommendation that would give release her from her servitude and allow her and her husband and child their freedom. This angers Lieutenant Hawkins and sets off a chain of events that leaves Clare physically and psychically beaten and abused to within an inch of her life. As the lieutenant and his troops head out across the dangerous wildlands, Clare vows to do whatever it takes to make sure they pay for what they’ve done.


Fair warning, The Nightingale is a difficult film to watch, especially in the beginning, as there are multiple scenes that feature rather brutal sexual violence and murder. Kent does not hold back in their depiction, either. While it may seem like a bit too much for some, I feel like these scenes are necessary in showing Clare at her lowest. She has everything taken away from her. It also shows the absolute worst of Hawkins and his men, Sergeant Ruse (Damon Herriman) and Private Jago (Harry Greenwood). There’s no moral gray area here. There’s just a journey to rid the world of the evils that have fallen her.


Clare enlists the help of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) to guide her through the treacherous bush and while at first she has the same distrusting and racist viewpoints as everyone else, she quickly learns that Billy has experienced much of the same loss as her. Franciosi and Ganambarr and excellent together and play off each other well. Every step further into the bush feels like it could be their last, thanks in part to the fact that they filmed on location in Tasmania. The tension never eases; it only increases as they get closer and closer to Lieutenant Hawkins. 


The Nightingale will make you angry in its depiction of violence and hatred, but it’s a necessary anger that will hopefully lead to a better understanding of its themes. It’s a film that has become etched in my mind that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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