The Nightingale
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJennifer Kent
Produced by
Written byJennifer Kent
Music byJed Kurzel
CinematographyRadek Ladczuk
Edited bySimon Njoo
Distributed byTransmission Films
Release date
  • 6 September 2018 (2018-09-06) (Venice)
  • 29 August 2019 (2019-08-29) (Australia)
Running time
136 minutes[2]
  • English
  • Irish
  • Palawa kani
Box office$909,847[3][4]

The Nightingale is a 2018 Australian Western film written, directed, and co-produced by Jennifer Kent.[5][6][7] Set in 1825 in the penal colony of Van Diemen's Land (present-day Tasmania), the film follows a young female convict seeking revenge for a terrible act of violence committed against her family. It stars Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, and Baykali Ganambarr, and was filmed mostly in English, with some Irish and Palawa kani.

The film premiered at the 75th Venice International Film Festival on 6 September 2018, and was theatrically released in Australia on 29 August 2019, by Transmission Films.


In 1825, on the eve of the “Black War”, Irish convict Clare Carroll works as a servant for a Colonial force detachment commanded by Lieutenant Hawkins. The unit is visited by an officer to see if Hawkins is fit for promotion. Clare, nicknamed "Nightingale", sings and serves drinks for the men. After work, Clare visits Hawkins to make an inquiry, and he forces her to sing a special song for him. Hawkins makes unwanted advances on her and Clare rebuffs them. She asks about the letter of recommendation that would free her, her husband, and their infant daughter. Hawkins rapes her. Aidan suspects that Clare has been hurt but remains calm when he confronts Hawkins about the letter; however, he fails to sway him.

That night, Aidan engages in a brawl with Hawkins, his second-in-command Sergeant Ruse, and Ensign Jago. The visiting officer witnesses the incident and decides that he is unfit for promotion. Hawkins commands Ruse and Jago to gather supplies for a journey through The bush to the town of Launceston, Tasmania, in hopes of negotiating with the officer. Before departing, the soldiers intercept the Carroll family, attempting to flee. Hawkins, Ruse, and Jago gang-rape Clare. Hawkins kills Aidan, and Jago kills their baby then knocks Clare unconscious at Hawkins' command.

The following morning, Clare reports the incident to a RMP official, but realizes that he's of no help, so decides to seek revenge herself, with the help of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy. Clare presents the mission to Billy as her desire to rendezvous with her husband on his journey. At first, Clare is domineering toward Billy, but their mutual hostility dissipates and they gradually bond as they learn about each other's tragic upbringings, with both gaining an increased appreciation for each other's culture. Billy tells Clare that his actual name is Mangana, Palawa kani for “blackbird”, the yellow-tailed black cockatoo, and that he wishes to go north to reunite with the still-living female members of his people. Meanwhile, the officers recruit three convicts and an Aboriginal, Charlie for their journey. Hawkins takes a liking to one of the convicts, a child named Eddie, and Ruse kidnaps a woman named Lowanna to be used as a sex slave. Aboriginal men kill one of the convicts and injure Jago in an unsuccessful rescue mission. Hawkins holds Lowanna hostage, then kills her distracting the men. He, Ruse, and the convicts flee, leaving Jago behind. Later, Clare and Mangana stumble upon Jago, whom Mangana assumes is her husband. Clare corners Jago, stabbing and beating him to death. Mangana considers abandoning Clare, but after he learns the true story behind her desire to get revenge, he decides to stay.

Charlie, as revenge for the soldiers' inhumanity, diverts the journey to a dead end on the summit of a mountain. Ruse kills him, but Hawkins chastises Ruse and forces him to be their guide on the way back down. After Clare and Mangana find Charlie's body, Mangana performs burial rites and informs Clare that now he too, seeks vengeance. The two approach the group of four men, but Clare freezes when she sees Hawkins, allowing him to graze her with a musket shot, forcing Clare and Mangana to split up. Mangana is found and forced to be the new guide. He brings the soldiers back to the main path to Launceston, and Hawkins orders Eddie to kill Mangana, but Eddie hesitates, allowing Mangana to escape. Hawkins tries to abandon Eddie, but when Eddie begs for a second chance, Hawkins shoots and kills him. Clare also finds her way back onto the main path and reunites with Mangana. They encounter a chain gang of Aboriginal men, one of whom informs Mangana that he is now the last of his people. When the prisoner yells at his captors about their callousness, they shoot him and the others dead.

In Launceston, Clare confronts a newly promoted Hawkins about his crimes in the presence of his fellow officers while Mangana watches in hiding. The two then flee town, but Mangana dons war paint, and makes back for the town despite Clare's pleas that he'll be murdered. She follows as Mangana enters the hostel where Hawkins and Ruse are lodged, and proceeds to kill them both, but not before Ruse shoots and deeply wounds him. Clare and Mangana flee and arrive at a beach where Mangana dances and declares himself a free man, while Clare sings a panegyric Gaelic folk song as the two watch the sun rise.



This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June 2019)

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, director Jennifer Kent was "deluged" with film scripts from the United States after the success of her debut film The Babadook (2014), but decided to focus on writing and directing The Nightingale.[8] IndieWire reported that shooting for The Nightingale began on location in Tasmania in March 2017.[9]

Due to the brutality of the film's scenes, psychologists were brought on set to support the actors.[10]


The Nightingale was released in the United States on 2 August 2019 by IFC Films, and in Australia on 29 August by Transmission Films.[11][12] The film was selected to be screened in the main competition section of the 75th Venice International Film Festival,[13][14][15] and had its Australian premiere at the 2018 Adelaide Film Festival.[16] IFC Films announced on Twitter they bought the rights to distribute the film in the US and have set a release for Summer 2019, following its festival run.[17]


Critical response

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June 2019)

On Rotten Tomatoes, The Nightingale holds an approval rating of 86%, based on 239 reviews, and an average rating of 7.5/10. Its consensus reads "The Nightingale definitely isn't for all tastes, but writer-director Jennifer Kent taps into a rich vein of palpable rage to tell a war story that leaves a bruising impact."[18] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 77 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[19]

Marcella Papandrea from The Super Network said "There is no doubt The Nightingale won’t be an easy watch for most, but it is an important watch. Jennifer Kent has carefully and respectfully crafted a brutal story, spilling harsh truths along the way." [20]


The Nightingale received media attention following its initial screenings at the Sydney Film Festival, where approximately 30 out of 600 film-goers walked out of the theater[21] due to its extreme depictions of rape and murder. One viewer was heard shouting "I'm not watching this; she's already been raped twice" as she exited the theater. Kent defended the decision to show such violence, saying that the film contains historically accurate depictions of the violence and racism which was inflicted upon the indigenous Australian people of that time.[21] The film was produced in collaboration with Tasmanian Aboriginal elders who asserted that this is an honest and necessary depiction of their history and a story that needs to be told. Kent said she understands the negative reactions, but stated that she remains enormously proud of the film and stressed to audiences that this film is about "a need for love, compassion and kindness in dark times".[22]

At the 2018 Venice film festival, an Italian film critic shouted a sexist comment when Kent's name appeared in the credits. It was similar to the slurs used against the film's protagonist. The Nightingale was the only film directed by a woman to be included in the festival's main competition.[23]


Award Category Subject Result Ref
AACTA Awards
Best Film Kristina Ceyton Won [24]
Steve Hutensky Won
Bruna Papandrea Won
Jennifer Kent Won
Best Direction Won
Best Screenplay, Original or Adapted Won
Best Actor Baykali Ganambarr Nominated
Best Actress Aisling Franciosi Won
Best Supporting Actor Damon Herriman Nominated
Michael Sheasby Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Magnolia Maymuru Won
Best Cinematography Radek Ladczuk Nominated
Best Editing Simon Njoo Nominated
Best Sound Leah Katz Nominated
Robert Mackenzie Nominated
Dean Ryan Nominated
Pete Smith Nominated
Best Production Design Alex Holmes Nominated
Best Costume Design Margot Wilson Nominated
Best Hair and Makeup Nikki Gooley Nominated
Cassie O'Brien Nominated
Larry Van Duynhoven Nominated
Best Casting Nikki Barrett Won
Saturn Award
Best International Film Pending [25]

See also


  1. ^ McNary, Dave (14 March 2017). ""Sam Claflin Thriller 'The Nightingale' Backed by Bron Creative"". Variety. Retrieved 8 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "The Nightingale". Venice International Film Festival. Retrieved 11 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "The Nightingale (2019)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 11 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ "The Nightingale (2019)". The Numbers. IMDb. Retrieved 11 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Justin Chang (31 January 2019). "Jennifer Kent's 'The Nightingale' and Joanna Hogg's 'The Souvenir' bring boldly personal visions to Sundance". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ David Rooney (6 September 2018). "'The Nightingale': Film Review, Venice 2018". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 11 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ A.A. Dowd (1 August 2019). "Babadook director Jennifer Kent returns with a great, harrowing Western, The Nightingale". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 11 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ Maddox, Garry (22 March 2017). "Game of Thrones' Aisling Franciosi to star in Jennifer Kent's The Nightingale ", The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  9. ^ Nordine, Michael (14 March 2017). "'The Nightingale': Jennifer Kent Begins Production on Her Follow-up to 'The Babadook'", IndieWire. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  10. ^ Jones, Nate (8 August 2019). "The Nightingale's Baykali Ganambarr on Bringing Aboriginal Culture to the Screen". Vulture. Retrieved 11 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ Sprague, Mike (27 March 2019). "The Babadook Director Gets a Release Date for New Movie The Nightingale". MovieWeb. Retrieved 11 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ "Jennifer Kent's THE NIGHTINGALE Australian Release Date Revealed!". Cult of Monster. 8 May 2019. Retrieved 8 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ "Venice to Kick Off Awards Season With New Films From Coen Brothers, Luca Guadagnino and Alfonso Cuaron". The Hollywood Reporter. 25 July 2018. Retrieved 11 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (25 July 2018). "Venice Film Festival Lineup: Heavy on Award Hopefuls, Netflix and Star Power". Variety. Retrieved 11 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  15. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (4 September 2018). "'The Nightingale' Director Jennifer Kent On The Feminine Force & Retaining Humanity In Very Dark Times – Venice Q&A". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 11 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  16. ^ "The Nightingale - Adelaide Film Festival". Retrieved 11 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  17. ^ Collis, Clark (9 January 2019). "Babadook director Jennifer Kent's new film The Nightingale to be released this summer". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 8 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  18. ^ "The Nightingale (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 11 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  19. ^ "The Nightingale (2019) Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 11 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  20. ^ Papandrea, Marcella (5 August 2019). "[MIFF '19] The Nightingale (2018)". The Super Network. Retrieved 11 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  21. ^ a b Thomas, Sarah (11 June 2019). "'I'm not watching this': Film's brutal account of Australia's colonial history sparks walkout". ABC News. Retrieved 11 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  22. ^ "The Nightingale: Film director defends controversial rape scenes". BBC News. 11 June 2019. Retrieved 11 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  23. ^ Pomeroy, Robin (6 September 2018). "Venice festival's only woman director gets sexist heckle at film screening". Reuters. Retrieved 11 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  24. ^ "Aacta awards 2019 winners: The Nightingale and Total Control dominate Australian screen awards". Guardian Media Group. 4 December 2019. Retrieved 11 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  25. ^ Hipes, Patrick (4 March 2021). "Saturn Awards Nominations: 'Star Wars: Rise Of Skywalker', 'Tenet', 'Walking Dead', 'Outlander' Lead List". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 12 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)