Mike Leigh's retelling of the Peterloo Massacre is a powerful, pertinent piece of work
For his latest film, Mike Leigh has crafted an effective retelling of the events surrounding the Peterloo Massacre: in 1819, civil unrest is brewing in Manchester and Lancaster. Wages have been slashed while a tariff restricting the import of grain from abroad has driven up the price of bread. People are hungry and poor, and ruled by a self-serving Government that determines to crush insurrection with an iron fist: the rod, they argue, is the only thing the poor will understand, and a far better tactic than providing money to help alleviate the hunger of the masses.
Despite the violence of the dénouement, Leigh takes a restrained approach to the material, focusing on the political rhetoric of the rallies and the discussions that surround them. It's beautifully crafted, if somewhat sprawling: characters come and go, leaving the wider political ramifications at the heart of the drama. Resultantly, at times, it feels a little too much like an agenda is being pushed, but this is nevertheless a powerful, pertinent piece of work.