"With this richly intelligent, passionate movie Mike Leigh has fought a brilliant rearguard action on history’s political battlefield." ★★★★★ Guardian

Showing Times

Slice-of-life realist Mike Leigh brings all of his nuanced understanding of human relations to bear in this historical drama. Working on a sumptuous and theatrical canvas, Leigh presents the infamous Peterloo Massacre of 1819, where government-backed cavalry charged into a peaceful crowd of 80,000 gathered in Manchester to demand democratic reform. With the French Revolution in mind, a weak government set the tone for the massacre; unwittingly it also sowed the seeds for political reform in the backlash that followed the slaughter.

It is a period with many contemporary resonances, and Leigh is at his most passionate; this comes from the heart.  Maxine Peake is Nellie, a hardened worker with a shell-shocked soldier son; Rory Kinnear a smug agitator, come up from London to mediate; but otherwise it is a crowded canvas of characters, veering from industrial Manchester to the pomp of Westminster and back again.  And where the film starts with talk, talk, talk, as contentious issues are debated in North and South, the final 30 minutes are all vivid action; a call to action!


Film Information

154 mins

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