Nightingale (2019) short film review

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A grieving young couple does their best while trying to come to terms with the death of their newborn child. This is a review of writer/director Edward Palmer’s psychological drama Nightingale.

In “Nightingale,” a young couple played by Stuart Mortimer and Sophie Hopkins are trying their best to get on with things after an accidental pregnancy and then tragedy rocks their entire lives. This is a tricky and very observant story of how a couple deals with news that they were not expecting and how they treat themselves and each other after the death of their baby. Leveled with grief and trauma, they live in a daze, still surrounded in the house by the memories of a child who is no longer with them.

Sadly, as is often the case in these films they are living separate lives and both are suffering a daily agony. ‘Nightingale’ differs in so much as it takes place in the spaces between the clichés of this situation. Hopkins ‘wife’ and Mortimer’s ‘husband’ are rattling unhappily in an emotional emptiness, they don’t speak to each other or interact too much.

What makes Edward Palmer’s film slightly different is that it investigates some of the effects that not talking about trauma has on each individual’s mental state.

As a couple, they are forced into shotgun wedding however it is clear that they are not in the slightest bit suited to each other. They have already reached that point where nothing ever seems to be the right thing to say early in their relationship, so instead of saying something they prefer to say nothing. The mum to be is very happy with the situation the father not so much and during the grieving process while the wife finds a sympathetic ear in a friend the husband is left to his own devices. From the opening few scenes in this 9 minute short, it is immediately noticeable, to the audience at least, that it is the husband who should be seeking help.NIGHTINGALE POSTER 198x300 Nightingale (2019) short film review

From the moment we meet him he seems to have a huge emotional disconnect to his partner. He comes across as cold and selfish as well as seemingly uninterested in their relationship as well as their child. It is a glowering and brave performance from Stuart Mortimer but as good as he is in the role it is this character that is a detriment to the film.

During the short, there are a couple of scenes of emotional blackmail and psychological warfare between the two of them that are quite intense at times. Unfortunately, Mortimer’s character comes across as a 2-dimensional movie monster at times, he’s basically a psychopath who doesn’t show any feelings at all. While Hopkins garners our sympathy and deserves plaudits for the emotional range she displays as the wife, there just doesn’t seem to be any logical reason why her character would want to be with someone this cold-hearted and standoffish in the first place. In the beginning, she also seems to be oblivious to her partner’s horrible attitude and behaviour towards her and then her child and despite how well both Hopkins and Mortimer embody their respective roles with the right attitude and feelings for these scenes. They just don’t ring that truthful and on the odd occasion, some moments can come across a little bit cartoonish. Particularly a scene at the end when a window is slammed shut and some feathers pop up from nowhere.

‘Nightingale’ is somewhat of a mixed bag it looks great with the cinematography being equally bright and breezy during its light moments as well as dark and gloomy during its dramatic ones. It is also really well acted by the leads. The short doesn’t fully work, but there are enough moments and directorial flourishes that single Edward Palmer as a talented director who, IMO, will certainly be one to watch over the next few years.

3.5 / 5 stars     

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