Mike Leigh’s rousing tale of working class uprising and its violent suppression in Manchester in 1819.
Dir Mike Leigh
With Rory Kinnear, Maxine Peake, Neil Bell
An Entertainment One release
As shell-shocked soldiers return from the Battle of Waterloo, they find their hometowns ravaged by a gentry upping food costs and ripping off the working classes. The French have already had their revolution and the disenfranchised men and women of Manchester are stirring with their own desire for reform. Nellie (Maxine Peake) is sceptical. Raising her family on a pittance, she is more concerned with food on the table than attending the increasingly volatile protest meetings. But many have been inspired. A peaceful march and assembly is arranged, where the star speaker will be Henry Hunt (Rory Kinnear), a radical orator famous throughout the land for his stimulating rhetoric. As the day approaches the government grows nervous, while the people grow emboldened. In Peterloo, director Mike Leigh is working at the pinnacle of his powers, gloriously drawing together so many of his preoccupations: class consciousness, family dynamics, hypocrisy, humanism and the foibles of the male ego. Against the backdrop of cinematographer Dick Pope’s beautiful Manchester/Lancashire canvas, the film weaves multiple stories of everyday people into a socialist tapestry and depicts an act of police brutality with huge contemporary relevance. Warm, funny and incendiary, this is a major work of cinema.
Kate Taylor, BFI London Film Festival Programmer