A Nightingale Falling review: Twee’s company

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Director: Garret Daly, Martina McGlynn
Cert: 12A
Genre: Drama
Starring: Tara Breathnach, Muireann Bird, Gerard McCarthy, Garret Daly
Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins

We must give credit where credit is due. Working to a minuscule budget on a frantic schedule, Garret Daly and Martina McGlynn, making their feature debut, have managed to deliver an Irish period drama that looks prettier than a Hovis commercial. Good for them

Unfortunately, the film is hard to embrace. Stilted, sluggish and occasionally ludicrous, it seems suffocated by its own good intentions.

Based on a novel by PJ Curtis, A Nightingale Falling tells a similar story to that of well-remembered 1971 melodrama The Beguiled. Don Siegel's American Civil War picture saw two frustrated southern sisters tend a wounded Yankee in the attractive form of Clint Eastwood.

The Irish film takes place in and around a cash-strapped stately pile in the midlands during the War of Independence. The assertive May (Tara Breathnach) and her more naïve sister Tilly (Muireann Bird) happen upon a wounded British officer and, for slightly muddled reasons, end up offering the Black and Tan shelter in their home. Various jealousies develop.


The actors struggle hard, but are constantly defeated by dialogue that sounds like neither spoken English nor heightened poetic prose. “Tilly tells me that you aspire to depart here,” Breathnach mouths in a characteristically overcooked snippet.

Graeme Stewart has written some fine music and the Ulster Orchestra have agreed to play it, but, apparently overwhelmed by their good-fortune, the film-makers layer on the chords with a virtual trowel. The parking of a bicycle is accompanied by the sort of epic surge other film-makers might reserve for the parting of the Red Sea.

All this is filmed in such pristine folk-park surroundings that one half-expects to see blue ropes around the period bedstead and guides leading Japanese tourists through the eerily deserted streets.

Oh well. A Nightingale Falling remains a logistic marvel. Let's just focus on that. Shall we?

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist