Run time: 136 MINS

Director: Jennifer Kent     

Cast: Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, Bavkali Ganambarr, Damon Herriman, Michael Sheasby,  Harry Greenwood, Charlie Jampijinpa Brown, Charlie Shotwell

Synopsis: Set in 1825, Clare (Aisling Franciosi), a young Irish convict woman, chases British officer Lieutenant Hawkins (Sam Claflin) 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 (Baykali Ganambarr), who is also marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past.


The Nightingale is Australian writer/director Jennifer Kent’s highly anticipated follow-up to her critically acclaimed The Babadook (2014).

Brutal, unblinking, and unforgiving, The Nightingale is a devastatingly honest look into the lives of a woman and Aboriginal People in an often neglected period of the English colonization of Australia, when European prisoners were transported into a life of indentured servitude. Kent spares no details and never looks away in this full-on and rightfully violent saga of revenge driven by female rage.

In 1825 in Tasmania – then known as Van Diemen’s Land – an Irish family consisting of  Clare [Aisling Franciosi – Game of Thrones (2016-17), Clique (2017), The Fall (2013-16)], her husband Aidan [Michael Sheasby – Hacksaw Ridge (2016)] and their baby, live in service to Lieutenant Hawkins, a sadistic, abusive man who refuses to keep his promise to set the family free – a frighteningly convincing Sam Claflin [Peaky Blinders (2019), My Cousin Rachel (2017), Their Finest (2016) ]. Treated as a drudge and occasionally trotted out in front of the troops to entertain them with her beautiful singing voice, Clare begs for her freedom and suffers violently for it.

When Clare’s husband Aidan retaliates, she becomes the victim of a harrowing crime at the hands of the lieutenant and his cronies. The British authorities fail to deliver justice, so Clare decides to pursue Hawkins, who has fled North to gain a promotion.

Unable to find anyone to voluntarily help her on her quest, Clare hires Billy (first time actor Baykali Ganambarr), an Aboriginal whose population has been enslaved or killed. The film follows them as they risk their lives with every step through the Australian forests. The terrain and the prevailing hostilities are frightening, as fighting between the original inhabitants of the land and its colonisers play out ‘The Black War.’

The Nightingale is a meditation on the consequences of violence and the price of seeking revenge; it is uncomfortable and disturbing to watch, but starkly beautiful from an aesthetic point of view, with superb cinematography from Radek Ladczuk and an atmospheric score from Jed Kurzel.

Director Jennifer Kent set out to explore two important questions in The Nightingale:‘What are the alternatives to violence and revenge?’ and ‘How do we retain our humanity in dark times?’

“I wanted to tell a story about violence. In particular, the fallout of violence from a feminine

perspective. To do this I’ve reached back into my own country’s history. The colonization

of Australia was a time of inherent violence; towards Aboriginal people, towards women,

and towards the land itself, which was wrenched from its first inhabitants. Colonization by

nature is a brutal act. And the arrogance that drives it lives on in the modern world. For

this reason, I consider this a current story despite being set in the past. I don’t have all the

answers to the question of violence. But I feel they lie in our humanity, in the empathy we

hold for ourselves and others.”

Images courtesy of: VERTIGO

Photo by Matt Nettheim
Aisling Franciosi appears in The Nightingaleby Jennifer Kent, an official selection of the Spotlight program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Kasia Ladczuk. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.