The Nightingale (2018 film)

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The Nightingale
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJennifer Kent
Produced by
Screenplay byJennifer Kent
Music byJed Kurzel
CinematographyRadek Ladczuk
Edited bySimon Njoo
Distributed by
Release date
  • 6 September 2018 (2018-09-06) (Venice)
  • 2 August 2019 (2019-08-02) (United States)
  • 29 August 2019 (2019-08-29) (Australia)
Running time
136 minutes[3]
Box office$545,070[4][5]

The Nightingale is a 2018 Australian period thriller film written, co-produced, and directed by Jennifer Kent. Set in 1825 in the British penal colony of Van Diemen's Land (now the Australian state of Tasmania), the film follows a young convict woman seeking revenge for a terrible act of violence committed against her family. It stars Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, Baykali Ganambarr, and Damon Herriman.

The film was released on August 2, 2019, by IFC Films in the United States, and on August 29, by Transmission Films in Australia.


During Van Diemen's Land's Black War, Irish convict Clare Carroll works as a servant for a stationed British Army unit commanded by Lieutenant Hawkins and Sergeant Ruse. The unit is also being visited by a commanding officer to see if Hawkins is fit for promotion to captaincy. After a night of work, Clare asks Hawkins about her overdue letter of recommendation that would allow their family—husband Aidan and their infant child—freedom. Hawkins takes this as an act of insolence and proceeds to assault and rape her. Later that night, Aidan suspects that Clare was hurt but promises to remain calm when he will confront Hawkins the following morning; he, however, fails to sway his mind.

That night, a drunken Aidan engages in a brawl with Hawkins, Ruse and wide-eyed Private Jago. The commanding officer witnesses the entire incident and determines that this, along with other acts of poor conduct displayed by Hawkins and his soldiers, deem him unfit for promotion. Incensed, Hawkins commands Ruse and Jago to gather supplies for an impromptu journey through treacherous bush to the town of Launceston to secure his promotion. Before departing, the soldiers intercept the Carroll family attempting to flee. Hawkins taunts Aiden about the “numerous” times he’s had sex with Clare before he and Ruse gangrape Clare. During the assault Hawkins kills Aiden; Jago then kills their baby and knocks Clare unconscious.

When Clare reports the incident to a dubious RMP official the following morning, she decides to enact revenge herself with a help of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy. Clare presents the task to Billy as her wishing to meet her soldier husband on his journey. The two initially share mutual hostility but begin to bond over their tragic upbringings and shared hatred of the British. Billy also tells Clare his actual name is Mangala, Palawa kani for “blackbird” and that he wishes to go up north to reunite with the still-living female members of his people. Concurrently, the officers recruit three convicts and Aboriginal Charlie for the journey. Hawkins takes a liking to one of the convicts, a child named Eddie, and Ruse kidnaps a woman named Lowanna to be used as a sex slave. Aboriginal men kill one of the convicts and injure Jago in a rescue mission, but this proves unsuccessful as Hawkins kills Lowanna in the scuffle. Clare and Billy stumble upon Jago (whom Billy assumes is her husband) and Clare corners and brutally kills him. Billy considers abandoning Clare but deduces her revenge plot and decides to stay.

Charlie, as revenge for the soldiers' inhumanity, diverts the journey to a dead end on the summit of a mountain. Ruse kills him but Hawkins chastises the rash decision and forces Ruse to be their guide on the way back down the mountain. Clare and Billy find Charlie’s body and Billy performs burial rites and informs Clare that he now also seeks vengeance. The two finally approach the group of four but Clare freezes when she sees Hawkins, allowing him to graze her with a musket shot and force Clare and Billy to split up. Billy, however, is found and forced to be the new guide. The soldiers set upon the main path to Launceston and Hawkins commands Eddie to kill Billy. Eddie hesitates, allowing Billy to escape. Hawkins abandons Eddie and, when Eddie begs for a second chance, he is killed. Clare finds her way back onto the main path and reunites with Billy. While on their way, they encounter a chain gang of Aboriginals, one of whom informs Billy that he is the last of his people. When the prisoner yells at his captors about their callousness, they shoot him and the others dead.

In Launceston, Claire valiantly confronts a newly-promoted Hawkins about his war crimes in the presence of several British officers as Billy watches in hiding. The two then flee town for the night but Billy dons war paint and enters the hostel where Hawkins and Ruse are lodged, killing them both but not before the latter mortally wounds Billy. Claire and Billy flee the commotion and arrive at a beach where Billy dances and declares himself a free man as Claire sings a eulogistic folk song and the two watch the sunrise.



According to The Sydney Morning Herald, director Jennifer Kent was "deluged" with film scripts from the United States after the success of her debut film, The Babadook (2014), but decided to focus on writing and directing The Nightingale.[6] IndieWire reported that shooting for The Nightingale began on location in Tasmania in March 2017.[7]


The Nightingale was released in the United States on August 2, 2019 by IFC Films, and in Australia on August 29 by Transmission Films.[8][9] The film was selected to be screened in the main competition section of the 75th Venice International Film Festival,[10][11][12] and had its Australian premiere at the 2018 Adelaide Film Festival.[13] IFC Films announced on Twitter they bought the rights to distribute the film in the US and have set a release for Summer 2019, following its festival run.[2]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, The Nightingale holds an approval rating of 84%, based on 106 reviews, and an average rating of 7.21/10. It's consensus reads, "The Nightingale definitely isn't for all tastes, but writer-director Jennifer Kent taps into a rich vein of palpable rage to tell a war story that leaves a bruising impact." [14]

On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 75 out of 100, based on 24 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[15]


The Nightingale received heavy criticism following its initial screenings at The Sydney Film Festival where approximately 30 film-goers walked out of the theater[16] in disgust due to its extreme depictions of rape and murder. One angry viewer was heard shouting "I'm not watching this, she's already been raped twice" as she exited the Sydney theater. Kent defended the decision to depict such violence, claiming that the film contains historically accurate depictions of the colonial violence and racism that took place against the Australian Indigenous people of that time.[16] The film was produced in collaboration with Tasmanian Aboriginal elders who feel that this is an honest and necessary depiction of their history and a story that needs to be told. While Kent understands why some people reacted in a negative way, believing that they have every right to, she remains enormously proud of the film and stressed to audiences that this film is about a need for love, compassion and kindness in dark times. She said that her commitment to cinema is to make people feel something, even if that's anger at her or the situation.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McNary, Dave (14 March 2017). ""Sam Claflin Thriller 'The Nightingale' Backed by Bron Creative"". Variety. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b Collis, Clark (9 January 2019). "Babadook director Jennifer Kent's new film The Nightingale to be released this summer". Entertainment Weekly.
  3. ^ "The Nightingale". Venice International Film Festival. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  4. ^ "The Nightingale (2019)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  5. ^ "The Nightingale (2019)". The Numbers. IMDb. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  6. ^ Maddox, Garry (22 March 2017). "Game of Thrones' Aisling Franciosi to star in Jennifer Kent's The Nightingale ", The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  7. ^ Nordine, Michael (14 March 2017). "'The Nightingale': Jennifer Kent Begins Production on Her Follow-up to 'The Babadook'", IndieWire. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  8. ^ Sprague, Mike (27 March 2019). "The Babadook Director Gets a Release Date for New Movie The Nightingale". MovieWeb. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  9. ^ "Jennifer Kent's THE NIGHTINGALE Australian Release Date Revealed!". Cult of Monster. 8 May 2019. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  10. ^ "Venice to Kick Off Awards Season With New Films From Coen Brothers, Luca Guadagnino and Alfonso Cuaron". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  11. ^ "Venice Film Festival Lineup: Heavy on Award Hopefuls, Netflix and Star Power". Variety. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  12. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (4 September 2018). "'The Nightingale' Director Jennifer Kent On The Feminine Force & Retaining Humanity In Very Dark Times – Venice Q&A". Deadline Hollywood.
  13. ^ "The Nightingale - Adelaide Film Festival".
  14. ^ "The Nightingale (2019) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
  15. ^ "The Nightingale (2019) Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
  16. ^ a b Thomas, Sarah (11 June 2019). "'I'm not watching this': Film's brutal account of Australia's colonial history sparks walkout". ABC News. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  17. ^ "The Nightingale: Film director defends controversial rape scenes - BBC News". BBC Staff. Retrieved 14 June 2019.

External links[edit]