Three films about…Australia: The Nightingale (2018), True History of the Kelly Gang (2019) and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Why am I writing about these movies now?
Well, I’m moving my back catalogue of movie (and occasionally TV) reviews from another site to Medium — covering many of the best-known releases of the last decade, as well as more obscure fare. To make it a bit more fun, I’ll be grouping them thematically (as here), but unless I spot actual errors I’m not doing any editing…so my opinion may have changed since I first wrote them!
My reviews of new cinema, streaming and disc releases, as well as retrospectives on old (and not-so-old) classics, will mostly continue to appear on the Medium publication Frame Rated.
Anyway, here goes. Enjoy…
This second feature from writer/director Jennifer Kent, whose debut was The Babadook, makes that wondrously inventive horror exercise look like a kiddies’ movie. And indeed it might be argued that The Nightingale piles on the grimness and misery too heavily — not because convicts in 1820s Tasmania were not treated badly, and Aboriginals treated even worse, but because it runs the risk of seeming to wallow in the terrible for its own sake.
A viewer might be so ground down by the sheer wanton brutality that they forget there is a narrative going on; slightly fewer acts of casual violence might have made the point just as well, and over-acting in some of the British military roles doesn’t help. (Damon Herriman, for example, could be the devil incarnate as easily as a redcoat, though perhaps playing Charles Manson twice in a row has had some permanent effect on him.)
For all that, it’s undeniably a powerful movie, and any danger that the storyline might fade beside the horrors is strongly mitigated by the two central performances.
Aisling Franciosi is convincing as a young Irish convict seeking revenge on the British officer who has laid waste to her fragile attempts at happiness in Antipodean servitude. Even better, though, is Baykali Ganambarr in what seems to be his debut role, as the Aboriginal guiding her through the bush. He is spellbindingly persuasive as a son of his own culture with informed, sceptical…