And Then Come The Nightjars

The fictional world of the Detectorists, the fishing exploits of Whitehouse and Mortimer and Benjamin Myer’s Perfect Golden Circle all deal with the stoic, idiosyncratic, emotionally repressed bond between two heterosexual men, but its a subject rarely explored in the arts. Based on the award-winning play of the same name by Bea Roberts, And Then Come The Nightjars adds to that very short list of film and literature acknowledging it’s even a thing.

The film begins with the outbreak of the foot-and-mouth epidemic of the noughties, and focuses on surly Dartmoor-born farmer Michael and jolly veterinarian Jeffrey, with Nigel Hastings and David Fielder reprising their stage performances. Nightjars are harbingers of all that comes without a warning – despite Jeffrey’s conviction that as “long as we all just stick to the rules it’ll be fine,” it quickly becomes apparent this is a triumph of hope over experience. The culling of the herd is a terrible moment that is both upsetting and the fuel for anger at such undiscriminating destruction. Yet the film is much more than a docudrama about foot and mouth. It encompasses farming in all its challenges, as well as the challenges presented by friendship in the face of adversity.

Beautifully filmed, the cinematography contrasts pyres of dead animals with the idealised landscape that holidaymakers see, ignorant of the fact that, just across the fields, a livelihood is at stake. Other than the two leads, minor characters barely get speaking roles, as the film dissects the intricacies of their relationship. It is a film that doesn’t outstay its welcome, and yet despite its short run time it doesn’t feel rushed. On the contrary, like the perfect short story, there’s just enough time for this simple tale of male friendship to blossom.