Jennifer Kent goes deeper and darker with her second feature. Where as The Babadook was certainly a horror; this is real, unflinching terror.
Colonisation is a brutal business, one in which everyone involved is debased. Set in 1825 – during the Black Wars in Tasmania – Clare (Aisling Franciosi) is an indentured Irish convict servant, in bondage to the typically cruel Lieutenant Hawkins (Sam Claflin) sketched into one cartoonish character in the sordid history of English colonialism. She is overdue her ticket to be freed and wants to be with her husband and child, but Hawkins refuses to relinquish his control. His abuse of power culminates in a horrific act of rape and physical violence against Clare (the scene is very tough, don’t be afraid to look away). Hiring an indigenous tracker in Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) Clare stalks Hawkins and his small party.
The Nightingale is a necessary reminder that sexual violence isn’t just a trendy topic that exists solely in the abstract, but is primarily something, once experienced, cannot be reduced to a film trope. (research Jack Whiting) It doesn’t dwell on the overcrowded bandwagon of self righteous trend, nor the overcooked tale of the woe of the downtrodden. But it travels well on redemptive vengeance.