Posts Tagged ‘Ewan Leslie’

Aisling Franciosi


136 minutes | MPAA rating: R

In the first 20 minutes of “The Nightingale” we witness three brutal rapes and two murders (one of the victims is an infant hurled against a wall).

Writer/director Jennifer Kent is just getting started.

Kent burst upon the world cinema scene in 2014 with “The Babadook,” one of the most effective psychological horror stories of recent years.  “The Nightingale” is every bit as nightmarish, except that it relies on nothing more than human nature and history for its terror.

Kent’s willingness to drive “The Nightingale” into unsettling and abhorrent behavior has made the film a lightning rod for controversy. If a man had directed this material it would probably be decried as exploitative and sexist. Because she’s a woman and because of her track record, Kent deserves a chance to make her case.

Does she ever.

Clare (Aisling Franciosi) is a young Irish woman who has spent the last several years in an Australian penal colony for the crime of theft. In that time (we’re talking the early 19th century) she has married a fellow transport (Michael Sheasby) and given birth.  The term of her involuntary servitude has expired, but Lieutenant Hawkins (Sam Claflin), in whose frontier household she serves, has refused to give her the papers that will make her a free woman.

Hawkins claims to treasure Clare’s singing voice — he calls her his “Nightingale” — but his real reasons are more carnal.

In short order Clare loses everything she values.  Leaving behind several ghastly crimes, Hawkins and his equally venal sergeant, Ruse (Damon Herriman), initiate a trek through the wilderness to plead their case for promotion at military headquarters.

Clare, bent on revenge, coerces the aborigine Billy (Baykal Ganambarr) to guide her in pursuit.

Billy, who as a boy witnessed the slaughter of his entire tribe, has nothing but contempt for the continent’s new white masters. But he’s too beaten down (“You know what it’s like to have white fella steal everything you have?”) to let his rage run free.  Ironically, on this mission of death he’s the one arguing for mercy and caution. (more…)

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