Popcorn to Paper: “Private Peaceful”
Thursday, November 12, 2015
“Private Peaceful” is a 2003 novel by Michael Morpurgo. It was also adapted into a play in 2004 and 2014 and into a 2012 film of the same name that was directed by Pat O’ Connor. All three interpretations focus on Tommo and his older brother Charlie Peaceful. Both brothers grew up in rural England with their parents and their oldest brother who was born with a learning disability. Throughout Tommo’s life his brother has always come to his aid and has helped to shield him from anything that might stand in his way. That’s until Molly comes into their lives.
As the three grow up, they form a close bond until it’s nearly shattered when Tommo learns of Molly and Charlie’s secret relationship and later marriage. Still, the brothers remain close until the looming threat of World War I threatens to separate them forever.
The adaptation of a novel into a film can be a tricky thing. It’s been done many times in the past with an increasing frequency in the last few years. Most times the film is not quite as good as the book. It can be a rare treat to find a “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Shawshank Redemption, “Atonement” or “Perks of Being a Wall Flower.” “Private Peaceful” lies somewhere in between.
The film, which stars George Mackay as Tommo and Jack O'Connell as Charlie, focuses less on the family drama and more on the senselessness of the First World War. The boys’ relationship with their oldest brother is nearly nonexistent and Molly’s introduction is different than the book. She’s a strong character in Morpurgo’s novel but merely a Manic Pixie Dream Girl as a child and a nagging wife as an adult in the movie. Furthermore, the film suffers from a lack Tommo’s internal dialogue. “Private Peaceful” can be commended for wonderful acting and a carefully crafted film. More care is given towards the struggle between the upper and lower classes in England during this time. This is a theme that may have been lost on the intended audience for the novel but can be expanded on in a film with more wide of an audience. The play, DVD and book are available on Amazon.
Tracy is a history/film fan who loves to read YA, historical and contemporary fiction. She’s also a sucker for a sad tale. Harry Potter (“Harry Potter”), Peeta Mellark (“Hunger Games”), Nathaniel Blake (“Little Men”) and Daniel Landon (“Catcher, Caught”) are her literary boyfriends. She’s also the resident Ravenclaw and librarian.