Jennifer Kent’s follow-up to her 2014 horror sensation The Babadook is another horror movie, yet a completely different kind of horror. The Nightingale is an unflinching, shocking, relentless revenge about one woman’s mission to get vengeance for her family, yet doubles as a road-movie and a look at the power of friendship and the effects of revenge.
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.
Kent proves she is the real deal as a director in The Nightingale. This film is brilliantly made in every way. The film is gorgeous and the sets and costumes put you right in the time and place the film takes places. But what Kent does best is balance the tones in this film. This is a film that won’t sit well with some, as it shows graphic depictions of sexual violence and even intense scenes of bloody violence. But Kent uses these scenes to shock us and show us how terrible these people are who did these crimes while also putting us in the rage-filled minds of Clare and Billy. Kent balances these horrible acts by showing the growing relationship between Clare and Billy and how the two overcome their hatred for one another and learn from each other and learn to trust each other in order to succeed with their mission. This is the heart of The Nightingale and while Kent doesn’t shy away from violence and horror, she also doesn’t shy away from the quieter moments. The sweeter moments between two strangers growing together and growing further away from the evil that has plagued their lives.
Franciosi and Ganambarr are equally sensational, giving two performances that should put them on the map. The Nightingale is a movie I won’t soon forget. It is a movie that will stay in my mind for the rest of 2019 because of the masterful filmmaking from Kent. The Nightingale is one of the best movies of 2019.
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