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Review: David Oyelowo is Breathtakingly Brilliant in HBO’s ‘Nightingale’

June 1, 2015
Parks and Rec
Eastern Boys

It takes a great deal of courage to embark on a solo performance; a one-man cast with a singular location. It’s such a vulnerable experience for the actor, giving himself over the character and that character’s experiences entirely.  Often it doesn’t work; the audience is unable to remain enamored with the story. However, when it does work, when the actor becomes infused in the character and with the story, the results are breathtaking.  In HBO’s “Nightingale,” David Oyelowo gives the best performance of his career as Peter Snowden, a man quickly and violently descending into madness.

Director Elliott Lester requires his audience to do the work of piecing Peter’s story together for themselves. Through Peter’s manic though at times humorous monologues, we began to get a fuller picture of his life, and the circumstances that have led him to this particular moment in time.  Set in modern-day Minneapolis, Peter is desperately trying to step into the 21st century though his surroundings have stalled him. He lives with his elderly mother and everything from the drapery on the windows, to the clothing in the closets are relics from the 1960’s.  In one of the most striking scenes of the film, Peter enters the house and begins un-boxing a new iPhone.  He kneels before it, worshiping its sleek design as if praying at the feet of God himself.  It’s obvious that he’s been waiting a long time for this moment, the new device is so unlike the house phone that the audience had grown accustom to seeing him with. Though Peter is in many ways stuck in a past time, his story is one for this century.  He documents his days through a series of vlogs, which he posts on the Internet. When he’s not on the phone, he speaks to his viewers, his mother, to God or to himself.

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Image: HBO