Which explains the heartwarming core to ‘And Then Come The Nightjars’, a new film about the bond between vet Jeff (Nigel Hastings) and cattle farmer Michael (David Fielder) during the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic.
A multi-awarding play by writer Bea Roberts, its London stage director Paul Robinson has reimagined the original cast on the big screen while maintaining its sharp focus on the tender and terse interactions between this fascinating duo.
On his run-down south Devon farm, recently widowed Michael only has his cherished herd of cows to call family – so when foot and mouth creeps slowly through the valley he pulls up the drawbridge and hopes to wait it out.
Meanwhile life is hardly rip-roaring for local vet Jeff, who’s plunged from every farmers’ friend to become cattle executioner/village persona non grata, as the veneer of his marriage crumbles like a haystack in a hurricane.
So the question is, can they help each other, survive the storm and salvage new lives as everything they once cherished scatters like sycamore seeds in in the wind?
Films showing the dirt under the fingernails of rural British life are rare, which is maybe why this feels very natural, honest and almost shorn of unnecessary, extraneous characters that could hinder or come between the pair.
For the play’s director Robinson, his feature length film directorial debut is a joyous and uplifting effort – it’s never a simple switch from stage to screen and the audience is given the full muck and mire of rural life.
And the stars Nigel Hastings and David Fielder delightfully wallow in their almost childish banter, warm chemistry and rapport.