Sorry to start this off with a little crudeness, but it has to be said right off that it took balls to make this film. Cajones because of the subject matter (mental illness, isolation, social media) and guts because of the structure of the film. It is in essence a one-man play. But not such a big risk when your one man is David Oyelowo. This star maker really shows the width and breadth of the Brit’s talent.
Despite all the challenges this film poses to the viewer it is highly watchable. Watchable because of Oyelowo. Watchable despite its claustrophobic nature. He is the only actor in the film, but you never yearn for someone else. Adding other characters would change the entire nature of the film and the viewers’ relationship with Oyelowo’s character. Oyelowo makes you root for this guy. Amazing feat considering. This because Oyelowo elevates David above a caricature. He makes us understand why he broke down due to his frowned upon and undealt with sexuality, an overbearing mother and some trauma that occurred during his military service. In the hands of this skilled actor David is never reduced to a cartoon character. It is a film that tests its lead and Oyelowo passes with flying colours.
Peter Snowden (David Oyelowo – Selma, Interstellar) has done something awful. You just get that feeling. It is not revealed right away, but the pall of it hangs over everything. Every word and every scene. He never really leaves his house and if you are watching Nightingale then you are trapped inside the house of horrors along with him. Soon you realize that this man is not well mentally. Unstable to say the least. Despite this he is a charming character. The veteran allows you into his heart and mind through the monologues he records and airs using either his computer or cell phone.
Working at a low level job at a supermarket and living with his elderly mother, Peter is trapped within a dead end life. As the story begins he hints that his circumstances have changed and it very soon you realize he doesn’t mean that he has gotten something as simple as a haircut or as average as redecorating the house. Which he does do later on.
Most of Peter’s efforts and time are consumed by the thoughts of an old army buddy. He keeps trying to phone him to let him know that he can now come over to Peter’s house due to the changed circumstances. Peter is foiled in his attempts to talk to his obsession by his army buddy’s wife. Finally, after using his newly purchased cell phone, he gets through and they plan a dinner at David’s house. Now the preparation begins. The impending dinner becomes the center of David’s life.
The fact that the big plot twist is revealed almost immediately is another sign of the courage behind the making of this film. It does not use the twist as a crutch rather as something that explains everything and gives you insight into the twisted mind of Peter. A good call in this case. The right move because it allows you to get beyond it and still bond with Peter. There is plenty of humanity to be found despite this man living in an in human situation. Despite the horror of what he has done, you feel sympathy for Peter because you have been allowed inside the mind of this broken man.