Small Screen Reviews
What’s It About?
A dark and bloody event in British history where an armed cavalry ended up killing peaceful protesters in Peterloo, Manchester in 1819.
Who’s In It?
Maxine Peake (Shameless, The Theory Of Everything, & more recently Funny Cow)
Rory Kinnear (The Imitation Game, Skyfall, & more recently Penny Dreadful)
Other notables include:
Alastair Mackenzie (Monarch Of The Glen, Wolf Hall & more recently Outlaw King)
Neil Bell (Dead Man’s Shoes, Pan, & more recently Victor Frankenstein)
Director: Mike Leigh (Secrets & Lies, Another Year, Mr Turner)
When you think of Mike Leigh, you think of gritty drama involving ordinary people, struggling to make their way in the world. And Peterloo is no different, despite the fact it is a crucial moment in our history and that Mr Leigh has a bigger budget at his disposal.
Set over a four year period from the aftermath of Waterloo all the way through to the tragic events in Manchester in 1819, Leigh typically ignores the big players of the time such as Wellington, Napoleon or Liverpool, instead focussing on a young and somewhat traumatised bugler, who, having survived the horrors of Waterloo, has to make his way back home up north by foot.
There is no support from the government for his service, and his salt-of-the-earth family, exemplified by pie-making machine Maxine Peake, take him back in, and attempt to eke out an existence. But tensions are running high among the working classes, with chuntering taking place up and down the country. When a peaceful protest is organised in Peterloo, thousands of local families attend to show their support, keen to hear the vain but talented speaker Henry Hunt put forward their case. Things inevitably turn ugly though as the yeoman and then the cavalry lose control of the event, resulting in the deaths of 15 people.
The story is well crafted and characters brought to life with some fine performances from the likes of Maxine Peake and Rory Kinnear. There are some humorous moments too, but Peterloo does suffer a little from length, too much exposition and its simplistic portrayal of all working class people as honest, hardworking salt-of-the-earth type people, and all of the upper echelons as mad, arrogant or evil, and oftentimes a combination of those traits.
Nonetheless, it is another well crafted and beautifully shot film form Leigh, which really comes into its element as the events of the title play out.
In A Nutshell:
An unglamorous and uncompromising retelling of a significant historical event, but it suffers from being a little ponderous at times.
The set piece of the massacre itself
Too much exposition at times
A little long in places
A little black and white in its depiction of the different classes
Release date: 11/03/2019
Certificate: 12 / 12A