For the Chicago Critics Film Festival, I had the chance to check out director Jennifer Kent’s latest endeavour, THE NIGHTINGALE. Jennifer Kent has already cemented her status in the film industry with her debut The Babadook. Although divisive, the movie was ambiguous enough to keep people talking and created a new monster to be scared of. It’s a while coming, but she’s finally come back with a film that’s going to get plenty of audience members uncomfortable. While THE NIGHTINGALE has its gruesome moments, don’t confuse this as another horror film.
Aisling Franciosi stars as Clare, an Irish convict living in 1825, where her small crime leaves the idea that men can treat her less than human. A British officer uses her as a servant for consequences but eventually leads to him raping her multiple times. One night goes even more horrifying when her husband is not only forced to watch but is killed by the officer’s men. Her baby suffers the same fate and she’s left behind. When she awakes, she refuses to just let things be and decides to go find those who hurt her and her family with the company of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy.
It’s easy to classify THE NIGHTINGALE as a rape-revenge film, but it doesn’t exploit any of the violence. At the risk of sounding cliche, it truly is a movie of someone finding their self-worth despite what others may say. The film feels eerily relevant to current events, specifically women’s rights and the #metoo movement. I do feel that this is truly a feminist film without apologies. While there’s an awful sense of loss, Clare’s journey into the horrors of reality introduces her to worlds outside of her own pain. While this may be a hard film to watch, it’s an important one to watch.