Sometimes a movie begins and within seconds you take a dislike to it, this is exactly how Private Peaceful begins. Within minutes you suddenly feel like you are looking at poor end ITV drama, with some pretty poor performances from its youthful cast. But this is a lesson on sticking with something, and how first impressions are often very deceptive. Private Peaceful is a drama we simply do not see any more, it starts with a feeling of Anne Of Green Gables, or The Road To Avonlea about it, and then pushes down a much more adult line, as the innocence of the characters is set aside for the terrors that occur during wartime.
The story follows three characters for the most part Tommo (Samuel Bottomley, George Mackay), Charlie (Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, Jack O’Connell) and Molly (Izzy Meikle-Small, Alexandra Roach). The characters are followed from their innocent youth, through to their adult years. But this is not just a normal tale, because both Tommo and Charlie are brothers, and both are madly in love with Molly.
Private Peaceful is based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, and has been in the making for almost ten years. Originally planned as a big budget movie, its tale in some respects is similar to War Horse, and when Spielberg got the rights to film Warhorse, all luck of getting a bigger budget on this project was lost. So instead Simon Reade and Guy De Beaujeu decided to push on with the movie on a micro-budget with acclaimed director Pat O’Connor at the helm.
The story that is told in the movie is epic, if it had been a television adaptation the story could have stretched to two seasons, instead its pushed into around two hours, and each and every minute of those two hours is well spent.
There is some marvelous support in the movie that includes performances by Richard Griffiths, Francis de la Tour, and Maxine Peake. But it’s the performances of Mackay, O’Connell and Roache that you take away from the piece. So much depth, and development is put into each role it’s not easy to understand where the performers end and their characters begin.
Budget restraints mean that when Tommo and Charlie are sent onto the frontline in France to fight for king and country, corners needed cutting, and while this is not War Horse levels of action, O’Connor’s direction, and an incredibly hard working team of special effects geniuses pull off an impressive task, that in some ways is far more realistic than a big budget contribution.
Private Peaceful is a heartwarming, compelling tale of lost love, fighting for what you believe in and extreme tragedy. It’s a tale that passes in a heartbeat, but one that will ultimately stay with you for long after those end credits roll.