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.
When Australian auteur Jennifer Kent made a splash at Sundance in 2014 with her debut feature The Babadook, the entire world took notice. 5 years later she returns with a sweeping, brutal epic set in 1825 Tasmania called The Nightingale that is a vastly different and very personal film.
Our story opens on Clare (Aisling Franciosi) who is serving the last days of her sentence doing menial work for the soldiers at a Brittish outpost in Tasmania. Free to roam, she and her husband have an infant daughter and have built a modest hovel, in which to serve out their respective sentences in the penal colony. Waiting only on her papers declaring her freedom, Clare works in subservience to the abusive Lieutenant Hawkins (Sam Claflin). One evening, after receiving a bit of bad news, Hawkins and his men commit an act of shocking violence against Clare and her family, leaving her with nothing.
“With everything gone and a fiery sense of justice, Clare sets off…to find her attackers and kill them…”
Hawkins and his men flee north and the local superiors are loath to take the Irish female ex-con’s word for what has occurred. With everything gone and a fiery sense of justice, Clare sets off into the Tasmanian terrain to find her attackers and kill them. She has nothing but a few supplies, her husband’s horse, and a small amount of money with which to hire a guide. Initially, Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) is reluctant to guide Clare through the wilderness. An Aboriginal who has seen “The Black War” play out around him with the colonizers committing outright genocide on the original inhabitants of the land. However, a mutual hatred for the British and a mutual need for justice guides Clare and Billy to a place of trust in a common goal.