FILM REVIEW: Private Peaceful

11:39 11 October 2012

Geroge Mackay as Tommo and Jack O

Geroge Mackay as Tommo and Jack O'Connell as Charlie in Private Peaceful. Picture: Matt Humphrey

© Matt Humphrey 2011

A story of family, love and growing up, Private Peaceful is a touching yet harrowing watch.

Adapted from the book by Michael Morpurgo, the film follows Tommo Peaceful on one night as he looks back on his life.

The beginning of the film is ominous, starting as it does during the First World War with a sentence being handed down for disobeying orders given in the field.

That sense of dread stays with the audience through the rest of the film, even through happier scenes, and at times the constant misery gets a bit too much.

Young Tommo and Charlie Peaceful, played by child actors Samuel Bottomley and Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, defend each other through thick and thin, have a good home life with their loving parents and older brother, and meet the girl of their dreams, Molly, when both are at school.

Their happy life is shattered when their father dies in a tragic accident, and both boys go to work for the Colonel, the richest man in the village they live in.

Richard Griffiths is amusing as the overblown Colonel, whose lazy behaviour and rants on responsibility provide a comic edge to tragic proceedings, but he disappears two thirds of the way through the film, as the plot dispenses with the need for his character, and it’s a loss that’s certainly felt.

As they grow older Tommo, played as a teenager by Geroge Mackay, finds himself falling more and more in love with Molly, who in turn is in a relationship with his brother, all against the backdrop of the fast-approaching First World War.

Heading off to the trenches, Tommo tries to find a place for himself as he grows into adulthood on the battlefield, surrounded by death and destruction wrought not just by the enemy, but by his own side in the shape of Sergeant Hanley.

John Lynch is formiddable as Sergeant Hanley, who has a personal vendetta against the Peaceful boys and whose viciousness is the catalyst to the final heartbreaking scenes of the film.

Watching him emerge from the smoke on the battlefield, crawling his way back to the trenches is spooky, and enough to put fear in the hearts of the bravest souls as the climax of the film approaches.

Private Peaceful is moving, from the scenes on the battlefield to the smaller moments of heartbreak at home, but does leave viewers feeling despondent. Have tissues on hand when watching.

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