Leigh’s probably the weakest link in his collection, definitely ambitious and rich, but breathes sad air.
Leigh is going through historical events. Day by day, if you ask me. I am a fan of, the writer and director, Mike Leigh’s work for a while now, and yet there lies this project. The effort, the art and his work is admirable, something you won’t feel until you see those curtains fall and the massacre gets to you, not manipulatively, but infomercially. But to reach that moment, Leigh asks for a lot from you. First of all, let me compliment his big verbal game that he has staged in this film. It preaches, speeches, gossips, bargains, complaints, bickers, converses, monologues, threatens, provokes, orders and whatnot to woo you. The film has loads of characters to cover in one ground. Since they are all heading towards one big field, the finale. The perspective matters just as the motifs behind it.
But covering these many tracks for this much time- it is surprisingly long, like A Passage To India long long- the transition ought to be smooth. And Leigh is smart enough to arrange the puzzles like a trail. But surprisingly he doesn’t feel the need to follow a fluid change in transition. Which is smart, since, he has broken the entire narration into its own entirety. The scenarios stands for what they are. Not interdependent on any of the incidents following or preceding it- loosely, of course. But here is where he digs his own grave.
Even though he has wisely kept one and only one target for the audience to look forward to. You cannot help yourself but get disenchanted every time he switches from one window to another. Another reason why it takes a while to time jump back into that chaos, is because Leigh organizes and jumbles the scene, the set, the players, on screen. There is a lot of “not this, not that” than being “bad this, flawed that”, which undoubtedly shows his experience. For instance a film of such length asks for little treats and fascinating elements, convincing its audience to hold onto their seats. It is not their. Not in Peterloo.