THE NIGHTINGALE (2018)
Flick takes place in the British penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land, which is now Tasmania, during the 19th century. An Irish couple, Clare (Aisling Franciosi) and Aiden (Michael Sheasby) are serving sentence there, along with their infant child and awaiting release. Clare has captured the eye of ambitious British Officer Hawkins (Sam Clafin) who is postponing her release and one night takes horrible advantage of her. This sets off a confrontation with Aiden, in front of a superior office, that causes Hawkins professional harm. In a fit of rage, Hawkins and his men rape Clare, again and kill her husband and child. As Hawkins travels to an outpost in search of securing promotion, Clare sets off in pursuit for revenge across wild lands with only native Aboriginal guide, Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) as company.
Australian period piece is written and directed with a very heavy hand by The Babadook’s Jennifer Kent. We understand going in this is not an action film, or Charles Bronson-esque revenge flick, but even so, the pace is dreadfully slow and the film simply about a half hour too long. The messages about the treatment of women and the terrible treatment of native Aboriginal peoples are well intended, but just because you have something important to say, doesn’t mean the audience should be bludgeoned with these messages for over two hours. Did we really have to endure Clare being brutally raped twice? We got the point the first time. The rape and murder of an Aboriginal tribeswoman also seems gratuitous, as by that point we understand that Hawkins and his thugs (Damon Herriman and Harry Greenwood) are horrible people and the black Aboriginals are treated awfully by the British and white locals. We get these messages clearly early on, but Kent keeps hammering away to make sure. It’s a well made film and the cast, especially leads Franciosi, Clafin and Ganambarr, give strong performances, but it’s also a tedious, heavy handed and meandering movie, even if well intended.