sun 03/03/2024

Death and Nightingales, BBC Two, review - slow, lyrical, slightly dull | reviews, news & interviews

Death and Nightingales, BBC Two, review - slow, lyrical, slightly dull

Death and Nightingales, BBC Two, review - slow, lyrical, slightly dull

Jamie Dornan reunites with The Fall creator to explore passion and bigotry in 19th-century Fermanagh

Still centre: Ann Skelly in 'Death and Nightingales'BBC/Night Flight Pictures Ltd 2018/Teddy Cavendish

And now for something completely different from The Fall. The nerve-shredding drama from Northern Ireland was written by Allan Cubitt and featured, as its resident psychopathic hottie, Jamie Dornan (pictured below).

It seems the two couldn’t get enough of each other because here they are again in Death and Nightingales (BBC Two), adapted from Eugene McCabe’s 2002 novel. The setting is rural County Fermanagh and to blend in Dornan has cultivated some exuberant shrubbery about that chiselled jaw.

The year is 1883, when on the occasion of her 23rd birthday young Beth Winters (Ann Skelly) plans to flee the homestead of her brute Protestant stepfather Billy (Matthew Rhys, twisting his vowels impressively) and take up with the smouldering Catholic neighbour (Dornan, see above). The atmosphere of intolerance and superstition firmly places all this at a safe distance from the here and now. So does the language, copied from the novel and pasted into the dialogue. “French gold put the shine on this place a hundred years ago,” says Billy. Beth says Billy has “kissed me not fatherly” (she says this twice).

Jamie Dornan in Death and NightingalesBut is it not also just a little bit 2018? The Good Friday Agreement has changed the nature of drama in Northern Ireland. Stories about treachery and sectarian violence have long since made way for more cheerful fare such as the adorable schoolgirl sitcom Derry Girls and The Journey, in which Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness made friends in the back of a car. But things are hotting up again in Ulster what with all this talk of backstops, the government’s supply-and-deal with the anti-abortionists of the DUP and the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Schism and dysfunction is once more on the agenda.

Meanwhile, back in 1883, the binary slipperiness of things in a place caught between cultures is captured in names. The priest will allow himself to be addressed “my lord”, but also Seamus or Jimmy. “I answer to Liz at school,” says Beth. “To Beth or Betty at the house.” These repetitions and echoes have the quality of poetic refrains, aptly perhaps for a story whose title alludes to Keats. They are not quite so hypnotic in the context of a drama, where you sometimes feel that you are just being told the same thing twice. There are other signs that the source material did not give up its charms willingly. There have been no fewer than three eavesdropping scenes so far, and not one but two incidences of stricken cattle.

It’s refreshing for a period drama to steer viewers towards unvisited stories. Death and Nightingales, which is also directed by Cubitt, looks beautiful enough, and Ann Skelly holds the centre with commendable stillness, while Rhys and Dornan embody different forms of masculinity. But for all the trappings of melodrama - stashed coin, poison, secret love trysts and one post-coital dip - it’s a bit bewitched by its own lyrical rhythms. Slow. Even ever so moderately dull?


There are signs that the source material did not give up its charms willingly


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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To describe this so called Drama as "moderately dull" is the biggest understatement. To describe it as utter rubbish, a complete waste of money and HARD TO UNDERSTAND what the "actors" were saying would be more apt. Subtitles were needed badly, the story was overlong and BORING. I persevered to the end just to prove from the very predictable episode one I was right that she would murder the Lover and wonder why I wasted so much of my valuable time. I have no regard for the so called male star women seem to make fools of themselves over, for me a turnoff. It might have been helpful if subtitles had been used. I come from an Irish background, Southern that is (my Parents) at times the West Cork accent is slightly hard for some English to catch as they speak so fast but one can understand the words used, unlike this. I trust that BBC2 will THINK TWICE BEFORE wasting such large amounts of money ON RUBBISH LIKE THIS, another reason why the Licence Fee should be removed from the Far Left bias BBC. BBC lost their way re the quality one was used to from them, a long long time ago. This is just further proof of the utter tripe they to put for the Licence Fee which can't be justified..

I really enjoyed this. I thought it was beautiful and fascinating and my heart was in my mouth from the moment Beth realised she had been betrayed. Ann Skelly and Matthew Rhys were sublime. I understand why people would find it slow but it was right up my street.

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