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Posts Tagged ‘Jennifer Kent’

Aisling Franciosi

“THE NIGHTINGALE” My rating: B

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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Noah Wiseman, Essie Davis

Noah Wiseman, Essie Davis

“THE BABADOOK”  My rating: B+ 

93 minutes | No MPAA rating

The Australian-made “The Babadook” so seamlessly merges the supernatural with the psychological that it’s impossible to say if what we see on the screen is really happening or if it’s unfolding in its tortured heroine’s head.

Either way, writer/director Jennifer Kent has given us an unnerving experience, marked by two superlative performances that grab us by the throat and won’t let go.

Amelia (Essie Davis) is a widow raising her seven-year-old son Sam (Noah Wiseman).  Like a lot of single moms, she’s struggling — financially, emotionally, sexually.

But Amelia has a special cross to bear, for Sam is, well, different. The kid is cute and bright and is working on a magic act.  But he’s also a handful, a tyke who so fears monsters under his bed that he has fashioned his own dart-shooting crossbow and a shoulder-mounted catapult to hold them at bay.

That’s only the beginning of Sam’s behavioral problems. He rarely sleeps through a night, usually waking Amelia to search his room for supernatural invaders (she is majorly sleep deprived). During waking hours Sam demands his mother’s undivided attention and he’ll throw a grand mal temper tantrum when he doesn’t get it.

(more…)

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