A step up in scope for director Jennifer Kent after The Babadook, The Nightingale is a brutal, bloody and honest look at period in Australia’s history that many seem to forget. The film tells an amazing tale of the trauma that many women and Aboriginal individuals endured during the 18th century.
Clare (Aisling Franciosi) is an Irish convict living in Tasmania, now able to live a life free from physical chains. Although her freedom was made possible by a British officer, Hawkins (Sam Claflin), it is clear that ulterior motives were at play. Now owing a debt to Hawkins, her attitude towards the officer after he causes tragedy to strike in a ruthless way. Upset and enraged, and enlisting the aide of Billy (Baykali Ganambarr), a tracker of Aboriginal heritage, Clare becomes hell bent on chasing Hawkins and getting her revenge. on Hawkins an as he has already left the village, to lead his group north.
The journey the pair embark on is long and fraught with as much emotional torture as there is physical. Clare is haunted by nightmares during the trek, a reflection of what has happened to her, her reason for this trip of vengeance, and ultimately what she plans to do herself. The unstable bond that Clare and Billy form is the centrepiece of the film. Their relationship changes over time and, as a result, so do they as people.
All this demonstrates how people from different worlds can learn understand each other on some level. The Nightingale is ultimately about grasping onto hope when the way forward seems impassable. The final act drives this idea further and ends on a note that seems underwhelming at first. However, once the powerful meaning behind the ending becomes apparent, this nightingale soars even higher.