Peterloo

First Hit: This historical event deserved a much better rendition.

In 1819 England was in turmoil because there was famine, unemployment, and the Lords in Parliament, along with King George III, were controlling the country with their own greed.

Wages for textile workers went from 15 Shillings a week down to 5 for the same period. Corn wasn’t allowed to be imported, so they had little to eat. Additionally, the people of Manchester did not have representation in Parliament which meant that almost all the people in Northern England weren’t thought about and were taken advantage of by the London led government.

This story is about how the people in Northern England decided to change their lot in life and support reform. They started by gathering and speaking to each other about change and what they needed. They also talked about bearing arms and doing whatever it takes to support a reform movement and get representation in Parliament. They want to be able to earn a living, not starve and have some say over their lives.

The leader of this movement for all of England was orator Henry Hunt. Hunt was a wealthy landowner who also wanted to support reform in England. His focus was to do it peacefully. The local Manchester group was to take arms against the government because talking hasn’t worked. However, Hunt won’t have anything to do violence, and before he spoke in Manchester, he required a commitment for no force and no arms.

The day of the rally, a Monday, where Hunt is speaking, 60,000 – 80,000 people show up. Unfortunately, so do representatives from the government who decide to teach the citizens a lesson, so they bring in the Army, who end up killing 15 and injuring 300 – 400 people.

This was a huge black mark in British history, and it was unfortunate that this film seemed to belabor conversations about suppression. I thought that the language and word vocabulary used by most the players was too sophisticated and really appreciated two women, during a woman’s meeting, speaking up saying they couldn’t understand the speaker. Yes, that was part of the point. But the words were used in this film didn’t seem specific or relevant to the time, and the speech making seemed way too sophisticated as well.

I didn’t think any of the actors really gave me enough to give me pause to write about performance. For example, Roy Kinnear as Hunt just seemed too out of touch with the time. He came off at too sophisticated and arrogant for even 20th-century speech making. Mike Leigh wrote and directed this film. The story is compelling, and this representation of it was weak.

Overall: This is a great story not done well.