For her much-anticipated followup to her beloved “The Babadook,” filmmaker Jennifer Kent somehow managed to go even darker than her breakout horror hit, which follows a terrified mother and child going to battle with a be-hatted monster with some nefarious plans. Kent’s “The Nightingale” again centers on a mother, but this time around, Kent’s film focuses on one that has lost her child and is hellbent on avenging the violence that has consumed both of their lives.
Set during the colonization of Australia in 1825, the film follows breakout star Aisling Franciosi as Clare, a 21-year-old Irish convict who has just completed a seven-year sentence. Eager to be rid of an iron-gripped and horrifying master (Sam Claflin), who has spent the subsequent years abusing Clare in terrible ways (the least of which is making her sing whenever he wishes, hence the songbird-centric title), Clare and her husband Aidan (Michael Sheasby) attempt to break free. To say it doesn’t work and results in an absolutely harrowing crime isn’t to spoil the film at all, but it does lessen the blunt trauma of what unfolds.
Bent on avenging her losses, Clare eventually gets free and sets about tracking Claflin’s Lieutenant Hawkins across the continent, aided by an unlikely compatriot: young Aboriginal tracker Billy (Baykali Ganambarr), who has his own grievances with the white men who have also ruined Clare’s life. Per its official synopsis, the film is billed as “a meditation on the consequences of violence and the price of seeking vengeance.”
In his Venice review of the film, IndieWire’s Michael Nordine wrote, “Acclaimed filmmakers often face the challenge of big expectations on their second features, but Kent joins the ranks of sophomore filmmakers whose new movies expand on their debuts in startlingly ambitious ways. She charts her own path in ‘The Nightingale,’ a savage journey that might not have been worth the trip were its guide not so adept at navigating the darkness.”
The film debuted at Venice last year, where it picked up both a Special Jury Prize and the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best New York Performer. It went on to screen at Sundance, San Francisco, and Miami, and will finally hit theaters later this summer. IFC Films will open the film in New York and Los Angeles on August 2, with national expansion to follow.
Check out the film’s first trailer below.