Two lost souls hunt down their oppressors.
“Brutal is too soft a word to describe The Nightingale,” said Stephen Garrett in Time Out New York. The new film from the director of The Babadook is merciless in its depictions of rape and murder, but the viciousness serves the movie’s “brilliantly harrowing” indictment of white male oppression in 1825 Australia. Aisling Franciosi stars as Clare, an Irish convict consigned to a penal colony. Very early on she is raped by a sadistic British officer, who then murders her husband and infant child. Clare somehow survives to take up a hunt for her assailant and his henchman, enlisting an Aboriginal tracker who has also lost everything to the British. “A more sentimental movie might treat the bond that develops between the two as a beautiful culture-crossing friendship,” said A.A. Dowd in AVClub.com. In this relentlessly violent film, the central alliance is “purer and sadder: a kind of blood pact between lost souls.” I saw The Nightingale at a festival where some male viewers argued that the director’s anger spoils the project, said Justin Chang in the Los Angeles Times. “I couldn’t disagree more. Jennifer Kent knows precisely what she’s doing.” ■