sat 20/07/2024

And Then Come the Nightjars review - two farm friends | reviews, news & interviews

And Then Come the Nightjars review - two farm friends

And Then Come the Nightjars review - two farm friends

A pair of blokes bond amid a foot-and-mouth cattle cull down in deepest Devon

Leave them cows alone: David Fielder as Michael in ’And Then Come the Nightjars’

This modest British dramedy is billed as a “heart-warming story of friendship and survival set against the backdrop of the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak”. That’s perhaps not the first catastrophe we associate with that fateful year, but it was a grim event in its own way: a livestock epidemic that led to the culling of countless farm animals across Britain.

The film wears its over-warm heart on a rather thin sleeve but seems to have an intrepid background: it’s adapted from a play that won a writing competition at a small Battersea theatre in 2014 And it’s hard to be critical of first-time writer Bea Roberts and first-time director Paul Robinson, nor of their film’s perfectly serviceable production values. The trailer, mind you, implied a kind of Dog Day Afternoon-meets-The Archers, with a kindly vet potentially taken hostage by a grizzled, shotgun-wielding farmer intent on his Devon cattle not being slaughtered. In that imagining, it felt like a big-screen idea to be sure, but the movie itself turns out more attenuated, training its sights on a simpler love-hate relationship between the two men.

Despite a lack of hostage-taking, the first half-hour has some juice to it, as bilious, beetle-browed codger Michael (a fine David Fielder) waves his unloaded weapon at Ministry of Agriculture officials come to kill his prized cows, all named after members of the royal family (except Fergie). Middle-class rural vet Jeffrey (Nigel Hastings), clutching a hip-flask and a toffee-apple, talks him down amid vivid descriptions of the way the poor (and so far uninfected) animals are to be dispatched with bolts to the head. (The widespread culling was criticized at the time for being far too wanton.)

There has been a slew of small British films set against farm struggles in recent years, starting around the time of Clio Barnard’s Dark River and Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country (both 2017), and reviving the grim survivalism of Andrew Grieve’s On the Black Hill way back in 1988. But that sub-genre of slurry-pit cinema has a stringency missing here, as Nightjars moves beyond its non-siege into affable, odd-couple terrain. Or at least a lot of kibitzing across a five-bar gate, which the filmmakers are keen to highlight in the remaining 50 minutes as events plod forward a decade or so. Posh Jeffrey moves in with old-geezer Michael, which – to get back to The Archers – seems about as likely in class terms as Brian Aldridge shacking up with Joe Grundy.

In keeping with the matinee air of the whole project, there’s only a faint hint of gay stuff amid the duo’s chucklesome mutual insults and cultural cross-purposes. They really are the most improbable (and perhaps repressed) pair of farmyard muckers since Ted and Ralph on The Fast Show.

There’s only a faint hint of gay stuff amid the duo’s chucklesome mutual insults and cultural cross-purposes

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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