Set in 1825, Clare, a young Irish convict woman, chases a British officer 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, who is also marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past.
Brutal and stark, this film pulls no punches in the violence it displays or in examining the psychological effects of it on its victims. Aisling Franciosi gives a phenomenal performance as Clare, one that surely took a toll on the actress as she is not only put through the wringer emotionally but physically. Though a bit too long, the movie achieves a palpable sense of place and time that is remote and distant, a plausible arena for the base acts that take place. Not for the faint-hearted, this is a primal scream that’s not easily forgettable.
The first 15 minutes of the film are so brutally yet realistically violent, both physically and emotionally, that it is difficult to watch. I truly didn’t think I could continue, but it is this violence that drives the story forward, propelling Clare (Franciosi) into unknown territory and creating a rich and powerful story about social injustices not only of this 1825 era delving into difficult topics of colonization, genocide, and rape. The film cinematically captures the harsh elements of Tasmania and Clare’s every emotion while the script splays open the traumas of these injustices from which only the most resilient can recover. It’s a masterpiece in the exploration of the human psyche.
Franciosi has one of the most powerful performances of the year, taking us into her world and the nightmare she experiences and Sam Claflin expertly takes on an unlikely role as Hawkins who will remain one of the most hated characters in film this year. This one of my top films of 2019, but it is not for everyone.
To read my interview with Franciosi, go to https://cinemafemme.com/2019/08/23/aisling-franciosi-dives-deep-into-character-in-jennifer-kents-the-nightingale/