• The Nightingale (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: February 4th, 2020.
    Director: Jennifer Kent
    Cast: Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, Baykali Ganambarr
    Year: 2018
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    The Nightingale – Movie Review:

    Set in 1825, The Nightingale tells the story of Clare (Aisling Franciosi), a twenty-one-year-old Irish woman living in Australia. When she’s kept longer than she was sentenced for, her husband Aiden (Michael Sheasby) steps in. Her life is shattered when a British officer named Hawkins (Sam Claflin) kills her husband and her baby. Clare tries to deal with the authorities but it’s clear they have no interest in helping her. As such, she decides she wants revenge, and so she teams up with aboriginal man named Billy (Baykali Ganambarr), a tracker, to chase Hawkins through the area in hopes of paying him back for destroying her life.

    There’s little more to the story than that, but the film is an interesting one even if it is about half an hour too long. Kent peels back the layers and takes a harsh look at some of the horrors that were perpetrated upon The Colonies by British imperialism. This looks not just as those sent to Van Diemans Land as punishment, but at the aboriginals as well, the latter group essentially targeted for genocide. It’s strong stuff, and Kent pulls know punches. This is a film rife with suffering and torment, a dark look at a grim time in Australian history told with an obsessive attention to period detail. And it’s also very well made.

    Yes, tighter editing most certainly would have helped make certain scenes more impactful and improved the pace but that issue aside, The Nightingale works quite well. There is rape (and rather ferocious rape at that), and there is murder. There is exploitation and there is horror, though is more of a revenge drama than a horror picture. It can, at times, be less than pleasant to watch but the performances from the three main cast members are so strong that you can’t help but be impressed. Franciosi is excellent in the lead, a truly sympathetic character although not a woman to be trifled with. She and Ganambarr, whose character has his own issues and difficult past to work through, is interesting and makes for a strong narrative backbone. They do very good work together. Likewise, Sam Claflin is completely believable as the story’s villain, he also delivers a strong and believable performance.

    Visually, the film is interesting. Cinematographer Radek Ladczuk, who also shot Kent’s first feature, has done an impressive job. It’s shot with an eye heavy towards Earth tones. It makes only sporadic use of brighter colors, and is instead heavy on browns and dark greens. This extends not just to the settings where the film takes place but to much of the wardrobe as well. The movie looks as unhappy as its main characters are, and there’s no way that’s a coincidence. The 1.37.1 framing also suits the story, giving the visuals a more ‘old fashioned look’ than a wider frame would have provided. Production values are strong across the board. The sets and costumes work really well and the score from Jed Kurzel (who also scored The Babadook) is excellent.

    The Nightingale – Blu-ray Review:

    The Nightingale comes to Blu-ray from Shout! Factory framed at 1.37.1 in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a 50GB disc. Picture quality would look to be an accurate representation of the source material. Some minor compression artifacts can be spotted here and there but the image is clean and provides solid detail throughout. The film’s color scheme is intentionally muted, don’t expect much to really ‘pop’ here in that regard, but the colors are reproduced naturally and black levels are strong.

    DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo tracks are available, in English, with optional subtitles available in English only. The 5.1 track is the better of the two options, as it does a very nice job of spreading around the sound mix various effects and parts of the score. The scenes that take place in the brush are quite immersive. Dialogue is mostly up front but it’s clean, clear and balanced. No issues here at all, the sound quality is quite strong.

    Extras start out with a twenty-eight-minute featurette entitled the Nightingale In Context wherein a selection of cast and crew interviews do a good job of explaining what the intentions were behind telling this story and how Kent and company went about doing it in the method that they did. There’s coverage of the scripting process and the writing, casting the film, location work, how the cast went about getting into character (which could sometimes prove challenging given the content) and more.

    The eighteen-minute The Making Of The Nightingale features Kent talking about how she really wanted to nail the period detail required to tell this story properly, what she tried to get out of her performers in terms of their portrayals and more. We also learn about the efforts of the wardrobe department, accents, locations and lots more. Both of these featurettes are quite interesting.

    Rounding out the extra features is a theatrical trailer, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. This release also comes packaged with a slipcover.

    The Nightingale – The Final Word:

    The Nightingale might not appeal to those expecting something closer to Kent’s debut, The Babadook, but it is a tense, well-made and thought -provoking film that deals with some uncomfortable and challenging subject matter. Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray release is quite strong, presenting the picture in a nice presentation and with some good extras too. Despite the grim and admittedly depressing nature of the story and the overly long running time, this is still a picture worth seeing and it comes recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Nightingale Blu-ray screen caps!