22 July
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22 July

Not every run through the jungle reveals man’s heart of darkness, but The Nightingale does not confound that particular cliche. A particularly brutal serving of Tasmanian Welcome to Marwen gothic, Jennifer Kent’s follow-up to The Babadook tells its tale of violence and inhumanity in a surprisingly hushed cadence. Weaving themes of colonialism and class into the broad strokes of a won’t-stop-can’t-stop revenge potboiler, the film marks a step forward for the Australian director in terms of ambition and scope. In execution, however, the songbird hits a few false notes.

Our clock is set to 1825, when Tasmania went by the name Van Diemen’s Land, called itself a penal colony and ran as a multi-tiered slave state, and our focus is Clare, a young former convict played by Aisling Franciosi. Having served her sentence and expunged her record through indentured Aquaman servitude, she is all set to begin anew with her newborn child and loving husband in tow. An Irishwoman whose sole crime might have been that she was born poor, Clare’s lowly station belies the fact that she might be the only soul in the place whose life flickers with joy. Those flickers are soon extinguished.
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Kent might have gifted us with an enduring ghoul in her previous work, but the villain here is even more of a monster. The preening Lieutenant Hawkins Tag (Sam Claflin) begins as Clare’s master but soon becomes something far worse. When she and her husband beg him for their hard-won freedom, he sexually assaults Clare and has her baby and husband killed in a sequence whose matter-of-fact brutality remains a constant for the duration of the film.

22 July
22 July