And Then Come the Nightjars: A tender drama about ageing and purpose

And Then Come the Nightjars
And Then Come the Nightjars: Nigel Hastings (background) and David Fielder.

And Then Come the Nightjars is a melancholy study of friendship, loss and ageing that begins amid the turmoil of the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001.

Adapted from a multi-award-winning stage play by Bea Roberts, this is a handsome film that makes good use of beautiful Westcountry scenery but it never quite shakes its stagey origin. 

Michael (David Fielder) is a curmudgeonly dairy farmer who lives an isolated life on the farm where he was born, raised a family and was widowed. He is estranged from his son and sees his purpose now as to care for the cattle he affectionately calls ‘his girls’. His solitary existence is punctuated by the visits of local vet Jeffrey (Nigel Hastings).

The fate of the farm hangs in the balance when the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) orders a cull of all animals due to a nearby outbreak of foot and mouth. Jeff, being the only local vet, has to enforce the notice to ensure the cattle are destroyed and burned on the pyres that became a symbol of time.

Roberts’ exploration of the relationship between the two men isn’t always on point but it is an interesting study of loss and purpose in later life and for all the clumsiness in the dialogue it remains an engaging piece.

The two main characters are opposites and their shared screen time is one long verbal sparring session: Michael is locked in his ways, farming the land in the same way his family has done for more than 200 years. He knows his way of doing things is dying as more and more farms sell up to developers, but he is unable to break the pattern. Jeff is a recovering alcoholic with a failed marriage behind him and an annoyingly upbeat personality. He cajoles foul-mouthed Michael along in small steps in an attempt to keep the farm viable and a roof over their heads. For Hastings and Fielder this is a reprise of their successful on-stage partnership as Jeff and Michael, with the play’s director Paul Robinson making his feature film directorial debut.

In short, And Then Come the Nightjars is a tender drama that tries to answer the questions that many of us face in our fifties and sixties when we consider what our purpose is after work, divorce or an empty nest. It doesn’t always hit the mark but it is an interesting slow-paced drama to settle down with a brew and the biscuit tin.

And Then Come the Nightjars

In cinemas from Thursday 31 August 2023. Check for And Then Come The Nightjars screenings.

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Tags: , Last modified: August 31, 2023

Written by 7:04 pm Film, What's on