I told myself I wouldn’t review this film. I told myself to just put it out of my mind and go on with my life and yet, here we are … ready to rant.
I watched The Nightingale at the beginning of August and as soon as I left the theater, all I wanted was the memory of it immediately erased from my mind. The film follows Clare, a young Irish convict (played by Aisling Franciosi) who chases a British officer (played by Sam Clamflin) through the rugged Tasmanian wilderness and is bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence the man committed against her family. On the way, she enlists the services of Aboriginal tracker Billy, a black man, (played by Baykali Ganambarr) who is marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past.
Lets get the good out of the way: the acting performances were phenomenal. Every actor did the best with what they were given. Aisling beautifully allowed every single emotion to shine through her, Sam Clamflin was every bit of repulsive that he needed to be and Baykali was an absolute revelation. Cinematically the film was truly beautiful, combined with the interestingly-angled shots and careful editing: I found myself in awe (when I wasn’t fighting the urge to walk out of the movie theater).
Yet, even with all of that, I have to say: I AM SICK AND TIRED OF WHITE SAVIOR FILMS!!!!
This movie is trauma porn; it uses shocking rape and death scenes to cause a visceral reaction from the audience. Though it’s clear that the revenge storyline is meant to take precedent throughout this film, it somehow keeps finding its way back to the white savior narrative. It’s clear that director Jennifer Kent was attempting to make a large statement about Feminism and the #MeToo movement but this movie was not the vessel for that message. It seems absolutely ridiculous to think that the story of the colonization of Australia and the terrible acts of violence that black people had to endure at the hands of the colonizers, was a story meant to be told by a WHITE WOMAN!
There were a few gratuitous violent scenes that did nothing for the actual storyline. There is NO NEED for us to get two different scenes of black men hanging from trees, we don’t need a black woman being raped to understand the racist colonization of Australia. WE GET IT, THE MEN IN THIS FILM ARE TERRIBLE RACIST MEN!!
If I can convince you to do anything, ever, then I hope that thing is to never ever watch this film. Okay, that’s a bit extreme and you’re entitled to do with your life what you want. The thing is, all white savior films do is remind us that we haven’t gotten as far in terms of inclusion as we’d like to think we have.