Paul Robinson’s drama follows two friends over the course of several years. Read our And Then Come The Nightjars review.
Based on Bea Roberts’ play of the same name, And Then Come The Nightjars tells the story of two friends. Michael (David Fielder), a dairy farmer, and local vet Jeff (Nigel Hastings). When we first meet the pair, the foot and mouth outbreak is at its peak in 2001.
Jeff has come to persuade Michael, armed with an unloaded shotgun, into letting the officials in to euthanize his livestock per the government set guidelines to control the outbreak. Michael isn’t backing down, pleading for his “girls” who aren’t sick. Alas, Jeff has no choice.
The opening sequence is marvelous. In fact, it’s so marvelous that nothing that comes after can quite reach its heights. We then check in on the friends every now and then over the years as the landscape of British agriculture changes considerably.
Directed by Paul Robinson, And Then Come the Nightjars is touching, if a little stiff. Maybe it’s just the pure British sensibility coursing through its veins, but the film can’t shake off its stage-y origins. It constantly feels like there is so much more to be said, more story to be told but both Robinson and Roberts only give us the bare necessities and it’s simply not enough.
Thankfully, Hastings and Fielder are both quietly magnetic in their roles. Reprising them from the original play, there’s a wonderful, underrated lived-in quality to how the two men bounce off each other. Even if the dialogue doesn’t always feel quite organic, they make the best of it.
Through Jeff and Michael’s interactions, we get glimpses of their lives. And Then Come The Nightjars is as much a story about loneliness as it is about agriculture. Jeff’s marriage is failing thanks to his increasingly bad drinking problem, and Michael lives alone after the death of his wife.
Their issues are staged against the beautiful landscapes of Devon. John Craine’s cinematography paints everything in sundown yellows and warm browns and while it’s all a little romanticised, it’s rather lovely too. Simon Slater’s score however, is a little invading and heavy-handed in a film that otherwise strives for small gestures rather than big bursts.
And Then Come The Nightjars is a perfect Sunday afternoon film – and that’s a compliment. At just 80 minutes, it’s breezy and delightful, even if the details of Robinson’s film begin to fade almost instantly from memory as the credits start to roll. Although it can’t escape the pure stage-yness of the setup, with two great central performances, And Then Come The Nightjars is thoroughly nice. In this day and age, that’s a rare treat.
And Then Come The Nightjars is in cinemas 1 September.