l'argent (robert bresson, 1983)
music friday: billie eilish, not my responsibility

film fatales #82: the nightingale (jennifer kent, 2018)

I didn't know what to expect from The Nightingale. I wanted to watch it because I loved Kent's debut as a director, The Babadook, but when a director only has one feature to their name, it's hard to construct any patterns. Now that I've seen her second feature, I'm not sure what patterns have emerged, because the two films are quite different. There is the obvious point, though, that Kent, who wrote her movies as well as directed them, brings a woman's perspective to her films. The Babadook was a horror story that focused on a mom ... The Nightingale is also horrific, but it's more reality-based. It's story is also seen through the eyes of a female protagonist.

The Nightingale is a brutal film, one that might play a lot differently with a man in charge (think Game of Thrones). Horrible things happen to the heroine, and Kent insists on letting us know what we are seeing and hearing. A look at the Parents Guide on IMDB (not recommended unless you've seen the movie) details enough events to warn off anyone with particular triggers. But it is never voyeuristic, never pleasurable. Kent takes us inside her heroine ... she doesn't shy away from what happens, but she always keeps her focus and ours on the character.

The movie is long and expansive ... it could stand to be a bit shorter (it's about 40 minutes longer than The Babadook). The length lends an epic feel to the film, and Kent uses the time to cover everything she thinks matters. The Nightingale is repetitive at times. But it overwhelms in the final analysis.

The conclusion is important. At its core, The Nightingale is a revenge drama, and the heroine gets some of the revenge she seeks. But Kent pulls back at the end, understanding that revenge is never going to completely fix what has come before. The finish is a bit anti-climactic, because we in the audience want the revenge. But it's an appropriate climax. And if you make it to the end of The Nightingale, you won't be able to shake its power. Special shoutouts to the leads, Aisling Franciosi and newcomer Baykali Ganambarr.

(Here is a letterboxd list of Film Fatales movies.)


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