Best Film of 2019: #25 The Nightingale
The Nightingale is a film that hits all of my soft spots. Historical fiction, angry revenge film and outdoor mission movie all wrapped into one. Yet, what we got in the late summer release in the US was something that didn’t fit neatly in any one group. It wasn’t until one of the characters discussed the beauty of going slow that the film connected for me.
Jennifer Kent has this way about her that Australian film hasn’t seen since the start of their New Wave in the 1970s. Kent knows what she experiences and the culture she draws from is still foreign to a good part of the world. Sure, there are a ton of amateur historians on the Internet, but they have no emotional connection to what they discuss.
MATT MADE A CARTOON: THE NIGHTINGALE
Aisling Franciosi kills it in the lead as Clare. While famous to Game of Thrones fans, her relative anonymity to the casual filmgoer allows for something magical. Franciosi gets to blend into her surroundings and make difficult choices. Too often, films that deal in true guttural horror lose their impact because of the nature of celebrity.
What was once novel to see Janet Leigh get whacked in a shower is now trivial. But, an underrated TV actress getting hunt down men and butcher them is something uncommon. Some of have disagreed about what she does, but let’s make no mistake. Clare butchered the men that killed her family.
By the time that Clare begins to understand Billy, we learn a lot about 19th century empathy. Billy is a brutalized native that is still fighting the white man whether it’s native Aussies or occupying British officers. He is not allowed to eat alongside white people. Plus, he keeps listening to Clare rattle on about her problems, like he isn’t treated like crap by everyone save for koala bears.
What makes the film among the Best of 2019 for me is that it doesn’t look away. There is no attempt to learn something about morality or how everyone should get along. This is about two victimized individuals realizing that they can rise above by inflicting their pain on others. Sure, they come to learn about each other, but this isn’t Green Book by any stretch of the imagination.
Looking at the nightingale after 2019
The Nightingale pulls off its incredible feats by leaning into what powers it. The rightful sense of rage that belongs to those that have been broken by unwieldy systems. Too often, our entertainment fails to understand what powers anger. We either explain it away or shame people for giving into the dark urges that power them.
But, after The Rise of Skywalker wiffed its ethical leanings to appease Chinese censors, most people stopped caring about ethical dilemmas. Thankfully, we have directors like Jennifer Kent that take The Nightingale into these dark arenas. I appreciate this level of unflinching focus on what makes people tick.
Will this be a movie that the mainstream turns around on in a few years? I doubt it, but it’s not like this movie needs them. When in doubt, aim for the few kids that get what you’re laying down.
Shout Factory recently released the film to Blu-ray. It’s a standard IFC package with interviews, a trailer and a DVS track as the special features. The A/V Quality is quite sharp, so we’ve been spattering in a few screenshots taken from the disc. Check it out and let me know what you think.
The Nightingale arrives on blu-ray on February 4th!
- Movie98/100 Best of the Best
- Blu-ray93/100 Almost perfect