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The Nightingale

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Australia, Canada, United States · 2019
Rated R · 2h 16m
Director Jennifer Kent
Starring Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, Damon Herriman, Ewen Leslie
Genre Adventure, Drama, Thriller

In 1829, Claire, a 21-year-old Irish convict, chases a British soldier through the rugged Tasmanian wilderness bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence he committed against her family. 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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What are people saying?

Mina Rhee Profile picture for Mina Rhee

As revenge film about a woman setting out against her rapist, I think it's successful. But I'm not sure if the narrative is sufficient to reckon with the colonial implications of the presence of these characters as settlers in Australia. It draws parallels between Claire and Billy's fates, but as a film that focuses on Claire and gives her a form of redemption and survival that it cannot give to Billy, I'm not sure if drawing connections is sufficient here.

What are critics saying?


The Guardian by

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.


The A.V. Club by A.A. Dowd

There’s something tragically resonant and singular in Kent’s vision of two marginalized characters—one black, the other a woman, both stripped of everything—finding common ground in their parallel trauma and resistance.


The Hollywood Reporter by David Rooney

If The Nightingale doesn’t quite fulfill the high expectations for Kent’s sophomore feature, it still shows a director with a muscular handle on her craft, though in this case she could have used a script collaborator to address the weaknesses.


Variety by Guy Lodge

Kent’s elemental revenge tale attains a near-mythic grandeur over the course of its arduous, ravishing trek. Some stricter editing wouldn’t go amiss, particularly in a needlessly baggy, to-and-fro finale, but it’s a pretty magnificent mass of movie.


The Playlist by Jessica Kiang

With all this evocative material available it’s unfortunate that Kent lavishes so much of the overgenerous runtime on repetitive and redundant plotting.


CineVue by John Bleasdale

As the film drifts through dream sequences and diversions, the dramatic power of the chase fizzles in the damp of the woods.


Screen International by Jonathan Romney

There’s a terrific film in here somewhere, with upmarket echoes of the exploitation thriller tradition of the 70s, but it gets lost in overstatement and a surfeit of plot reversals.


IndieWire by Michael Nordine

Acclaimed filmmakers often face the challenge of big expectations on their second features, but Kent joins the ranks of sophomore filmmakers whose new movies expand on their debuts in startlingly ambitious ways.

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