Five years ago, Australian director Jennifer Kent scared the pants off horror audiences with her wicked feature debut The Babadook. That film was nightmare fuel about a mother, her testing young son, and an evil children’s book character who stalked their lives, all of it a metaphor for depression and grief. It’s a beautiful horror film, and we’ve been waiting eagerly to see what Kent would do next.
Now, we have our first look at the director’s follow-up feature, The Nightingale, which looks very different than its predecessor, but haunting in a whole new way. Check it out.
This isn’t a horror film so much as a story of revenge, told from the perspective of a young woman, the would-be “little bird” of the title. The movie, which comes from IFC Films, centers on Clare, a young Irish convict who is serving a seven-year sentence in Tasmania under the the rule of an abusive master, Lieutenant Hawkins. After witnessing the brutal murder of her baby and husband by Hawkins, and after the British authorities fail to bring justice, Clare sets out on a journey to track Hawkins at his new northern post. She recruits an Aboriginal tracker named Billy who leads her through the hellish wilderness to seek revenge on the men who destroyed her family.
Aisling Franciosi, perhaps best known as Lyanna Stark on Game of Thrones, plays Clare, with The Hunger Games‘ Sam Claflin as Hawkins and newcomer Baykali Ganambarr as Billy. The film premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival, where its relentless brutality was noted by critics.
It may not share much in the way of tone or genre with The Babadook, but there are notable similarities. The interiority of the female lead serves a similar function here, orienting us with Clare as she is plunged into a horrific scenario where she must fight for her child. Kent is making a name for herself as a figure for vengeful motherhood, and we’re totally here for it.
The Nightingale opens in theaters on August 2.
Images: IFC Films