The Babadook director Jennifer Kent is creating quite a bit of controversy with her newest movie, as early screenings reportedly are causing filmgoers to shout out at the screen while others walk out in disgust. Called The Nightingale, Kent's new movie is a violent thriller set in colonial Tasmania. It recently debuted at the Sydney Film Festival on Sunday, but may not have gotten the warmest reception.

Irish actress Aisling Franciosi stars as a convict forced to endure brutal violence at the hands of a British officer played by Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games). In the disturbing movie, Franciosi's character witnesses the officer and his pals brutally murder her husband and infant child, causing her to swear revenge in her agony. It's needless to say that this subject matter is beyond serious, and some viewers just straight-up weren't having it.

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"I'm not watching this. She's already been raped twice," one woman was quoted as saying as she exited the screening. While nudity is kept to a minimum, there are in fact multiple rape scenes in The Nightingale, making the movie all the more unsettling to watch. It certainly won't be one to check out for the faint of heart, and while Kent agrees that the movie is a "difficult watch," she claims the movie is in fact a historically accurate depiction of how things were for these people at that time. "Whilst The Nightingale contains historically accurate depictions of colonial violence and racism towards our Indigenous people, the film is not 'about' violence," Kent said in a statement. She adds: "It's about the need for love, compassion and kindness in dark times."

Along with Franciosi, Kent also says she has been contacted by victims of sexual assault commending her for the movie, praising it for its accuracy. Additionally, the director remains "enormously proud" of her work, despite its content simply being too much to bear for some viewers. The filmmaker also noted how hundreds of other viewers all stayed behind to see the movie through to the end, even if some people walked away unhappy. Critically, the movie is also doing fairly well, currently sitting at 77% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes. It would seem that maybe The Nightingale tells a good story but with the use of plenty of graphic imagery.

Kent's directorial debut came in 2014 when she helmed The Babadook, which became a big indie hit. It tells the story of a widowed mother forced to confront a sinister supernatural presence in her home, and there's really no other movie out there quite like it. It would become one of the best-reviewed films of the year, earning nearly universal praise with a 98% Rotten Tomatoes rating. The Nightingale will serve as Kent's second feature as a director.

The Nightingale is due for a release on Aug. 2, 2019. It remains to be seen how this controversy will affect ticket sales, but more often than not, stories like this actually end up helping more than anything. In any case, the movie should be able to make you feel something, one way or the other. This information comes to us from ABC.

Jeremy Dick at Movieweb
Jeremy Dick