PRIVATE PEACEFUL is a British film set about 100 years back during the lead-up to World War I that holds a mirror to life among the titled gentry, as well as those who labored for them. As my spouse noted about halfway along, "This makes a nice antidote to Downton Abbey." Indeed. In fact, I don't think I noticed a single "overheard conversation" in the entire film.
Pat O'Connor (shown at right), with a screenplay written by Michael Morpurgo, the author of the novel on which the film is based, Private Peaceful -- surely an ironic title, except that the family name of the central characters is Peaceful -- the movie is old-fashioned in a good sense: It tells a easy-to-follow story well, with good dialog and fine performances and visuals that do all they should to carry us along and make the trip a worthwhile and often quite beautiful one. We spend most of the film in the lush British countryside on the estate of a nasty, entitled Colonel (the last performance caught on film from the late, rotund actor Richard Griffiths, below) who rules with a stupid iron hand, has an ailing wife and makes eyes at Frances de la Tour (shown at bottom) -- who plays either the aunt or grandmother of the Peaceful family (I was never quite sure which).
Hero Fiennes-Tiffin and Samuel Bottomley, shown respectively, left to right, below --
Izzy Meikle-Small, shown below, right, tugging -- that both boys fall in love with almost upon meeting her.
Jack O' Connell (below, left, of 300: Rise of an Empire and Starred Up) and George MacKay (below, right, of Pride and For Those in Peril), both of whom do a fine job in delineating character and growth.
Maxine Peak (below, from Silk, Run & Jump) plays the Peaceful mom, Hazel, and does her usual commendable job or providing love, reassurance and a strong, female figure.
John Lynch, below, who plays the Peacefuls' -- as well as the viewer's -- military bête noire.)
BBC Worldwide North America, and running 103 minutes -- opens this Friday, October 31 in New York City (at the AMC Empire 25) and in Los Angeles area at Laemmle's Playhouse 7 and will expand to other markets as the weeks and months pass.