When Jennifer Kent
’s first feature, “The Babadook
,” premiered at Sundance, she was greeted as the year’s breakout auteur. In the fall of 2018, when “The Nightingale
” premiered in Venice, she faced a very different reaction.
“It was awful,” the Australian director said, reflecting on the experience a year later. “My gender overtook my film. It still mystifies me.”
As the only woman director in Venice’s competition, Kent faced a harsh response to her movie that overwhelmed the work itself. And “The Nightingale
” deserves better: Like “The Babadook
,” it’s a mesmerizing immersion into one woman’s broken life, and her capacity to wrestle control of it. But in other ways, it’s a dramatic expansion of her talent, confronting the country’s centuries of racism and misogyny through a visceral lens, and the ultimate mission statement from a filmmaker who could have easily been devoured by the Hollywood machine.