Certificate 12A

(2018) 154 mins

Director: Mike Leigh
Writer: Mike Leigh
Cinematography: Dick Pope
Production Design: Suzie Davies
Music: Gary Yershon


On August 16 1819 a crowd of peaceful demonstrators gathered in St Peter’s Field, Manchester, to demand the reform of parliamentary representation.  The end of the Napoleonic Wars had ushered in a period of chronic unemployment and severe deprivation.  The government, terrified at the prospect of widespread social unrest, ordered first the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry and then the 15th Hussars to charge into the crowd of demonstrators with drawn sabres.  Many were killed and hundreds more were injured, sparking a nationwide outcry but also prompting further government suppression. The Peterloo Massacre was a defining moment in British democracy which also played a significant role in the founding of The Guardian newspaper.  Mike Leigh’s stirring account of the incident stars Rory Kinnear and Maxine Peake.

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If there is a lesson for the country in these volatile times, maybe it’s that disconnect between governed and governors, North and South, urban and rural, can have consequences that are best avoided by establishing lines of communication. No doubt, if Ken Loach, Leigh’s fellow chronicler of the lives of working folk, had been behind the camera, a different and more strident approach to events may have ensued. To his credit and despite being out of his directorial comfort zone, Leigh manages to take slice-of-life drama to impressively epic heights and expresses a quieter indignation. But it’s indignation, nonetheless.”  Radio Times

Peterloo is a brilliant depiction of an incident that has been well forgotten or not even learned of in schools, but Mike Leigh’s project is ultimately a finely spread Marmite of a film, burning slow until a striking climax. Moviegoers will either love it or hate, but do go see it for an important and relevant history lesson given that 2019 will strike the massacre’s 200-year anniversary.”  The Upcoming

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