FILM REVIEW: NIGHTINGALE
Director: Elliot Lester
Writer: Frederick Mensch
Starring: David Oyelowo, Barlow Jacobs (voice), Heather Storm (voice)
Release Date: June 17, 2014
It’s not easy to call Nightingale horror. But then again if Nightingale isn’t horror, what is? David Oyelowo stars in the 2014 film from Executive Producer Brad Pitt’s entertainment company Plan B, helmed by Director Eliot Lester (Selma), as the tormented Peter Snowden, a man who is on the downside of a lifelong battle with mental illness. In this context the film solely relies on one-sided conversations on the telephone along with pitifully accurate vlog entries and their summonsed yet unsolicited comments.
The sparse production and singular location serves as a look into Snowden’s lacking support system and also paints a picture of what loneliness truly looks like.
As we follow Snowden’s descent into madness Lester feeds us the pieces of Snowden’s life we need to begin to understand the psychosis that brings him to this moment in time. In doing so Lester reminds us that mental illness is comprised of two parts; the first being the genetic makeup of an individual which makes it more likely to being susceptible to the illness and the second being the environment a person develops in, which plays a large role in a person’s growth-or lack of.
At one time relatable and almost silly David Oyelowo’s character work as Peter Snowden is complex; it almost appears too simple until we realize we’ve been fooled. Why do we question every interaction Snowden has with his acquaintances? Is he even speaking to another person on the other line or is every conversation living only in Snowden’s mind? Viewers will know the answer to that question as concretely as Snowden himself knows for certain the difference between reality and psychosis.
All the weight of Nightingale rests on its very conclusion where the very talented David Oyelowo serves a lifetime of pain and then a way out. It’s a bleak film, with an even bleaker ending. Then again, how many people do you know who suffer from severe mental disability who actually have their happy ending?