Set in 1825, Clare, a young Irish convict woman, chases a British officer through the rugged Tasmanian wilderness, bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence he committed against her family. On the way she enlists the services of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy, who is also marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past.
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THE NIGHTINGALE is a meditation on the horrors of Australian colonization, set at the turn of the 19th century. The film follows Clare, a 21-year-old native Irish wife and mother held captive beyond her 7-year sentence, desperate to be free of her obsessed master, British lieutenant Hawkins. Clare's husband Aidan intervenes with devastating consequences for all. When British authorities fail to deliver justice, Clare pursues Hawkins, who leaves his post suddenly to secure a captaincy up north. Unfamiliar with the Tasmanian wilderness she enlists the help of an orphaned Aboriginal tracker Billy. Marked by their traumas, the two fight to overcome their distrust and prejudices against the backdrop of Australia's infamous 'Black War'.Written by
Actress Aisling Franciosi, who played Clare, worked with a psychologist, Dr. Elaine Barrett, who took Franciosi to a Domestic Violence center to speak with the staff who work with women who have been abused, either over a period of time, or in isolated incidents. "That gave me a real insight into how these women keep going, what they feel and the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that they experience," Franciosi said. "One of the things I learned at the center was that, globally, rape is a statistic that isn't going down. I was appalled and angered. Why is this still happening? Clare shows how resilient so many women are and how resilient women can be, and that was something that I felt was really important to bring to the screen truthfully and honestly." See more »
That's just the way isn't it? You don't want trouble but sometimes trouble wants you.
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We were introduced to the film by one of the lead actors who advised us to "strap ourselves in", which I think was good advice. It does depict some horrific things done by humans to other humans, and a few people walked out of the screening in the first 10 minutes because by far the worst scenes are at the start.
But I recommend sticking with it as it's really about showing glimpses of humanity underneath murderous hatred in an extremely hostile environment. It is not simply a gleeful revenge thriller, despite the often cartoonish evil of the British soldiers and the Tarantino-esque levels of violence. When the revenge does come, it feels like a drop in the ocean of cruelty that surrounds it - by which I mean the everyday treatment of the aboriginal people by the white settlers and of women as property. The larger themes come through with crushing strength.
There isn't much in the way of humour or lightness here, but it manages to be a compelling and rewarding experience even if it feels a bit exhausting. You can tell it was a tough shoot - it's mostly set in the muddy, wet Australian bush - but like the actors I came out feeling it was worth it in the end.
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