Coming off of a hot horror film (or anything so overtly genre, really) can be an incredibly interesting time for a filmmaker. Do they continue to solidify their understanding of a genre’s mechanics, maybe the way Jordan Peele jumped from Get Out to Us, or do they make a wild leap like David Robert Mitchell when he followed up It Follows with Under the Silver Lake? Jennifer Kent, the Australian director of The Babadook, seems to be doing a bit of both with The Nightingale, a title I’ve three times now just typed as “nightinggale.”
IFC Films is set to distribute, and their official summary does more justice than I perhaps could:
THE NIGHTINGALE is a meditation on the consequences of violence and the price of seeking vengeance. Set during the colonization of Australia in 1825, the film follows Clare (AISLING FRANCIOSI), a 21-year-old Irish convict. Having served her 7-year sentence, she is desperate to be free of her abusive master, Lieutenant Hawkins (SAM CLAFLIN) who refuses to release her from his charge. Clare’s husband Aidan (MICHAEL SHEASBY) retaliates and she becomes the victim of a harrowing crime at the hands of the lieutenant and his cronies. When British authorities fail to deliver justice, Clare decides to pursue Hawkins, who leaves his post suddenly to secure a captaincy up north. Unable to find compatriots for her journey, she is forced to enlist the help of a young Aboriginal tracker Billy (BAYKALI GANAMBARR) who grudgingly takes her through the rugged wilderness to track down Hawkins. The terrain and the prevailing hostilities are frightening, as fighting between the original inhabitants of the land and its colonisers plays out in what is now known as ‘The Black War.’ Clare and Billy are hostile towards each other from the outset, both suffering their own traumas and mutual distrust, but as their journey leads them deeper into the wilderness, they must learn to find empathy for one another, while weighing the true cost of revenge.
Kent’s Babadook remains one of the highest-praised horror films of recent years, and my own personal favorite in quite some while. Clearly not content to stay indoors and scare us all over again, her eyes are turned to history and how naturally horrifying people can be. Not too far from The Babadook then?
The Nightingale opens August 2nd and I cannot wait.