And Then Come the Nightjars (2023)

August 20th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Paul Robinson | Cast: David Fielder, Nigel Hastings | UK Drama 80′

Farm animals are having a tough time at the moment and especially dairy cows, blamed for raising the levels of methane and killing random walkers straying onto their territory when all they want to do is moo and chew in peace. But this is nothing compared to twenty years ago when the bovine population was decimated by foot and mouth disease and millions of livestock were systematically and often brutally slaughtered to control the outbreak.

This film version of Bea Roberts’ award-winning play takes place on a south Devon farm during that fateful epizootic of 2001. And although the narrative is rather slim, the summery English countryside sees the story soar above its stage origins in a colourful and genuinely moving look at male friendship with the original cast of Nigel Hastings and David Fielder terrific as the unlikely couple thrown together in crisis.

The last episode of foot and mouth disease occurred over twenty years ago but those TV images of livestock being incinerated in vast fires all over the countryside are still haunting with the farming community bearing the brunt of the crisis, psychologically and in their pockets.

Seasoned farmer Michael (Fielder) really brings all this home to us as a recent widower who had become fiercely attached to his small herd of dairy cows, naming them after members of the royal family. And we really feel for him and his animals with the demise of dairy farming threatening to be a frightening possibility: “there have cows on this farm for over 200 years and now there’s nothing” he complains bitterly.

Vet and close friend Jeffrey (Hastings) offers to help with the government enforced slaughter, ensuring humane methods, but Micheal is inconsolable and furious at this intrusion into his personal property, threatening to blow the men from the ministry away with a two-barrelled shot gun in scenes that are both pitiful and tragic (we see the flames, but not the cows in John Craine’s clever cinematography). Jeffrey’s life is not without its marital complications bringing these two lonely men closer in the absence of women. And Then Comes the Nightjars serves both as a touching tribute to that terrible time and to male friendship.

25 & 26 August | Chichester Film Festival | IN CINEMAS FROM 1 SEPTEMBER 2023  

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