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The Nightingale (18)
Directed by Jennifer Kent
AUSTRALIAN film-maker Jennifer Kent's highly awaited follow-up to her critically acclaimed The Babadook is another powerful and horrifying drama and it's not for the faint-hearted.
It's set in 1825 Tasmania, where 21-year-old Irish convict Clare (Aisling Franciosi) hunts down her abusive master across the Tasmanian wilderness to wreak her revenge for the horrors he and his cronies caused to her husband and child.
On the trail of British Lieutenant Hawkins (Sam Claflin), she enlists the help of Aboriginal tracker Billy (the impressive newcomer Baykali Ganambarr) who has also been marked by trauma, having witnessed the British killing his own family members.
The two make hostile but unlikely allies as they battle a common enemy in this exploration of violence and its fallout from a female perspective.
Racism, the brutality of the British colonisation of Australia and the violence towards women all come under scrutiny, along with the plight of Aboriginal people unceremoniously stripped of their land. “This is my country, this is my home,” Billy cries out despairingly after witnessing more atrocities against his people by the Brits.
The Nightingale asks two key questions: what are the alternatives to violence and revenge? And how do we retain our humanity in dark times? Those are questions difficult to answer as Clare is raped repeatedly by Hawkins, who perceives her as his property, treating her as his own personal sex toy.
With the voice of a nightingale, Franciosi gives a fearless and haunting performance, capturing Clare's fierce tenacity and steely strength. Claflin delivers a career-defining characterisation as the heinous and entitled Hawkins, who takes out his frustrations at his lack of promotion on all those around him, including Clare.
A hard and brutal watch. But, if you can stomach it, this is an extremely thought-provoking drama which stays in the mind.
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