Set in the fields of Devon and the WW1 battlefields of Flanders, two brothers fall for the same girl while contending with the pressures of their feudal family life, the war, and the price of courage and cowardice.
Private Peaceful details the gritty rural lives and loves of Tommo and Charlie - two young brothers - and their poor Devonshire family from 1909 until 1916, when the outbreak of war destroys their country idyll. Both join up (one under age) leaving behind the beautiful Molly who is the love of both their lives. The young men survive gas attacks, shelling, German troops and the appalling deaths of their close friends. But one thing they cannot escape is summary military justice.Written by
Guy de Beaujeu
Divided by love. United by war. Torn apart by injustice
Based on Michael Morpurgo's book, 'Private Peaceful' has garnered inevitable comparisons with Spielberg's 'War Horse' (to me a superior film, which is probably not going to be a popular opinion). On its own merits, it's a decent but not great film that does a lot right but somewhat too vanilla.
Starting with the strengths of 'Private Peaceful', while not lavish it's very nicely shot in its own low-key way and even more expertly done is the contrast of the rustic charm of the early life scenes with the harrowing griminess of the war scenes. Rachel Portman's score is lushly orchestrated and understated without being over-sentimentalised.
'Private Peaceful' may have a lot of familiar elements, but the relationship with their father, the sibling love rivalry and feuding with their sergeant are done competently enough, if very familiar elements done to much stronger effect elsewhere. The story is compelling and moving enough, everything about the film is well-intended and the direction is solid.
The acting is what comes off best, or at least most of it. George MacKay and Jack O'Connell are very good as the brothers with a very natural bond between them, and they are well matched by a charming Alexandra Roach as well as tortured and gruff John Lynch, affecting Maxine Peake and blustering Richard Griffiths.
Not everything comes off well. The dialogue can be stilted and awkward in flow, with too much signposting and melodrama in the early scenes. The child performances also don't come off naturally and are actually pretty amateurish, particularly for young Charlie.
A little too much of the film is cliché ridden and sadly this would not have mattered if it wasn't so vanilla, meaning it's all there but with not much spark. Lastly, the ending is far too abrupt and too much of a head-scratcher.
In summary, well done but bland. 6/10 Bethany Cox
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