The Nightingale ★★★★

Jennifer Kent's follow-up to The Babadook also centres on a traumatised woman. Where that film confined itself largely to the domestic space, however, The Nightingale uses the landscape of 19th-century Australia as the canvas for a kind of revisionist western. Revisionist westerns are more common in the 21st century than the classical form, of course, but The Nightingale is powered by a distinctly feminine fury. Kent's choice to shoot in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio deprives viewers of the panoramic vistas often presented by the genre, all the better to focus in on the horrific injustices on display here. Despite the film's reputation, its depictions of sexual assault and physical violence are harrowing, but never exploitative. The narrative is simple, but fraught, as an Irish convict seeks revenge for a tragic loss, guided by an Aboriginal man. Another film might present the pair, both dehumanised by colonial forces, as natural allies. Instead, Kent hones in on the differences between them, with both narrative incident and extended conversation illustrating the differences in these characters' circumstances. The clunky dialogue is abetted somewhat by the film's heightened, allegorical tonal register. The film's three central performances ably complement that tone, sketching within the lines of the archetypes they have been assigned without veering into caricature. (B+)