The Nightingale

Critics Consensus

The Nightingale definitely isn't for all tastes, but writer-director Jennifer Kent taps into a rich vein of palpable rage to tell a war story that leaves a bruising impact.



Total Count: 47

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Movie Info

THE NIGHTINGALE is a meditation on the consequences of violence and the price of seeking vengeance. Set during the colonization of Australia in 1825, the film follows Clare (AISLING FRANCIOSI), a 21-year-old Irish convict. Having served her 7-year sentence, she is desperate to be free of her abusive master, Lieutenant Hawkins (SAM CLAFLIN) who refuses to release her from his charge. Clare's husband Aidan (MICHAEL SHEASBY) retaliates and she becomes the victim of a harrowing crime at the hands of the lieutenant and his cronies. When British authorities fail to deliver justice, Clare decides to pursue Hawkins, who leaves his post suddenly to secure a captaincy up north. Unable to find compatriots for her journey, she is forced to enlist the help of a young Aboriginal tracker Billy (BAYKALI GANAMBARR) who grudgingly takes her through the rugged wilderness to track down Hawkins. The terrain and the prevailing hostilities are frightening, as fighting between the original inhabitants of the land and its colonizers plays out in what is now known as "The Black War." Clare and Billy are hostile towards each other from the outset, both suffering their own traumas and mutual distrust, but as their journey leads them deeper into the wilderness, they must learn to find empathy for one another, while weighing the true cost of revenge.


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Critic Reviews for The Nightingale

All Critics (47) | Top Critics (8)

  • Both a canny fulfillment and a skillful subversion of the conventions of the revenge thriller, the picture becomes a touch overextended in its final stretches but is nonetheless sustained by the coherence and intense muscularity of its filmmaking.

    Jan 31, 2019 | Full Review…
  • [A] ceaseless, numbing brutality-a Western revenge yarn of such heightened cruelty and suffering that it basically demands to be read as allegory.

    Jan 27, 2019 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

    A.A. Dowd

    AV Club
    Top Critic
  • It's a devastating, uncomfortable watch. But there's a sense that The Nightingale needs to be exactly the film it is, bubbling with completely justified anger and pain.

    Jan 26, 2019 | Full Review…
  • Vacuum-packing a nonstop supply of rapes, deaths and beatings into more than two hours is needlessly punishing, and comes at the expense of character and story

    Jan 26, 2019 | Full Review…
  • If The Nightingale doesn't quite fulfil 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.

    Sep 6, 2018 | Full Review…
  • The Nightingale can be wearingly repetitive, making a point, making it again and making it once more for good measure, each time with the same sleepy whisper. Still, it's a noble effort.

    Sep 6, 2018 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Ben Croll

    Top Critic

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