Peterloo – Review

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Dir: Mike Leigh Length:2hrs 34Mins

You will probably fall into two camps in watching this film; either you’ll be enthralled or you’ll be bored. Whichever of the two camps you fall into probably depends on your attitude to scenes of 19th Century working class life. Admittedly, this film does take a long time to get to the dramatic and shocking events of 16th August 1819, but you feel by the end that the journey is worth it. The massacre itself comes after we follow a number of vignettes showing the gap between working class life and the life of everybody else. One man is sentenced to hang for stealing a coat.

There are three main stories; the magistrates and the home secretary
and their plans to stop the pro-democracy gathering (Manchester has no MP), the Manchester Observer and their efforts to secure Henry Hunt (Rory Kinnear (a London landowner and noted reformer)) to speak at the gathering and the family of Nellie (Maxine Peake) who’s son has walked back from the battle of Waterloo.

All performances are excellent and feel natural, all the language seems of the period. This is, for me, measured film making rather than slow. Others may disagree. The look of the film is very good, excellent use of the moors around Manchester and the city itself is recreated well. All period detail is present and correct. If you are happy to witness the best lesson on the Peterloo massacre, then you’ll enjoy this film.

Phil Wild

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