Nightjars are medium-sized birds that are active at dusk and in the night, closely related to whip-or-wills. Like those birds, they are superstitiously viewed as harbingers of disaster or death.
Devonshire, England. 2001. One of the worst outbreaks of foot and mouth disease is spreading throughout the nation. Desperate measures are called for, and all herds within three kilometers of an infection are being culled.
Michael’s farm is one of them. Despite his efforts to keep the infection from his herd – his “girls” – a nearby farm is infected. Michael (David Fielder – “Peterloo”) knows his cows, each of which has her own name, are free of the disease, but his friend and verbal sparring partner, Jeffrey (Nigel Hastings – “My House”,) the local veterinarian, has no choice but to follow Ministry of Agriculture orders.
For Michael, whose fore-bearers have raised cattle on that land for over 200 years, this is the death of his family. For alcoholic Jeffrey, it means local ostracism, the end of his already shaky marriage, and the loss of everything. Seven months later, Michael finds Jeffrey drunk and asleep in his barn – with nowhere to go.
So begins this sometimes confrontational but ultimately gentle tale of two unlikely friends who become platonic housemates after a tragedy that befall them both. Directed with a gentle, deft touch by newcomer Paul Robinson, from a script by Bea Roberts, and based on her play of the same name, this two-man film glories on the vistas of rural Devonshire, the love of living close to the earth, and the affection of one human being for another.
Action? At the beginning, but once the story really gets going it settles into the rural rhythm of everyday life, moments of celebration, and a recognition that all things come to an end.
Director Robinson displays a sure hand in guiding the performances of the Fielding and Hastings, while the settings and photography are expertly presented. However, this is basically a stage play, and the other actors present are props for the two principals. David Fielding’s strong Devon accent is difficult for the American ear to interpret at times, while Nigel Hastings more familiar English accent is clearly understandable, if occasionally obscured by a British idiom.
Despite those few problems, this is a heartwarming film aimed at an audience that treasures what life has to offer over the passage of time.
Runtime: One hour, 21 minutes
Availability: On digital, Oct. 3, 2023
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