Tag Archives: Aisling Franciosi

Fantastic Mr. Fox Corpse


by Hope Madden

There will be moments when you’re watching Robert Morgan’s macabre vision Stopmotion that you’ll think you see the twists as they’re coming. That’s a trick. Morgan, writing with Robin King, assumes you’ll catch the handful of common horror twists, but he knows that you won’t predict the real story unfolding.

Although you should because he’s given you every clue.

Aisling Franciosi (The Nightingale) is Ella. She’d like to make her own stop-motion animated film, but instead she’s helping her mom finish hers. Ella’s domineering mother Suzanne (Stella Gonet, very stern) is a legend in the field, and she makes Ella feel as if she has no stories of her own to tell.

But when Suzanne is hospitalized, Ella determines to finish her mother’s film. Her boyfriend Tom (Tom York) sets Ella up in a run down, empty flat where she can work and he can check in on her, bring dinner and take care of her.

Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Unless Ella really has no stories to tell, or the story she tells is too scary, even for her.

Stopmotion delivers a trippy, uncomfortable, and deeply felt tale of a struggling artist. This is a descent into madness horror of sorts, but it’s also the story of an artist coming to a realization about what scares her most. Franciosi’s turn is brittle and often internal. Ella’s insecurities float to the surface, and Franciosi’s unafraid to make the protagonist frequently unlikeable.

The dual storylines—live action and animation—are both well told, but the real pleasure is in the gruesomely tactile movie Ella is making. Her characters—wax and feather, bone and blood and ash—come to life in a lumbering, grotesque way that hints at any number of possible horrors.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s seen Morgan’s animated shorts, including “D Is for Deloused” in ABCs of Death. The animator sees the monstrous possibilities in his medium, clearly. But his feature debut balances that with an existential ugliness in Ella’s real life, and thanks to committed and nuanced performances from the whole small ensemble, both sides keep you riveted.

Bird of Prey

The Nightingale

by Hope Madden

There is a moment in George Miller’s 2015 action masterpiece Mad Max: Fury Road. The empty bridal chamber is revealed quickly. Scrawled on the wall: Who killed the world?

It occurred to me partway through Jennifer Kent’s sophomore feature The Nightingale that Miller isn’t the only Aussie director with that question on the mind.

The Nightingale is as expansive and epic a film as Kent’s incandescent feature debut The Babadook was claustrophobic and internal. In it she follows Clare (Aisling Franciosi), an Irish convict sentenced to service in the UK’s territory in Tasmania.

What happens to Clare at the hands of Leftenant Hawkins (Sam Claflin), the British officer to whom she is in service, is as brutal and horrifying as anything you’re likely to see onscreen this year. It’s the catalyst for a revenge picture, but The Nightingale is far more than just that.

As Clare enlists the aid of Aboriginal tracker Billie (Baykali Ganambarr, magnificent) to help her exact justice, Kent begins to broaden her focus. Those of us in the audience can immediately understand Clare’s mission because we witnessed her trauma in its horrifying detail. Kent needed us to recognize what British military men were capable of.

What she wants us to see is that the same thing—the worst, almost imaginable brutality—happened to an entire Australian population.

In the second act, Clare—on a higher social rung than her tracker, and just as condescending and racist as that position allows—and Billy begin to bond over shared experience. Franciosi’s fierce performance drives the film, but Ganambarr injects a peculiar humor and heart that makes The Nightingale even more devastating.

Kent’s fury fuels her film, but does not overtake it. She never stoops to sentimentality or sloppy caricature. She doesn’t need to. Her clear-eyed take on this especially ugly slice of history finds more power in authenticity than in drama.

Her tale becomes far more than an indictment of colonization, white male privilege, domination and subjugation. It’s a harrowing and brilliant tale of horror. It’s also our history.