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Private Peaceful details the gritty rural lives and loves of Tommo and Charlie - two young brothers - and their poor Devonshire family from 1909 until 1916, when the outbreak of war destroys their country idyll. Both join up (one under age) leaving behind the beautiful Molly who is the love of both their lives. The young men survive gas attacks, shelling, German troops and the appalling deaths of their close friends. But one thing they cannot escape is summary military justice. Written by
Guy de Beaujeu
Private Peaceful is adapted from the book by Michael Morpurgo. It is a low budget film that features the final screen performance of Richard Griffiths who plays the pompous retired headmaster, the Colonel.
Told in flashbacks, the story is about two Devonshire brothers Tommo (George McKay) and Charlie (Jack O'Connell) who before the war was close and getting into scrapes such as upsetting the Colonel and fall for the young girl in the village Molly (Alexandra Roach.) It is Charlie who marries her. Now Charlie is facing the firing squad for alleged cowardice.
Until their father died in a tragic accident, the family had a relatively good life. Their father was a gamekeeper and forester employed by wealthy landowners.
Both join up to fight the Great War even though Tommo was too young. Charlie tries to take care of Tommo and concerned about Molly who became pregnant before they set of for Flanders. Charlie also crosses swords with a sadistic sergeant who proves his undoing as Charlie disobeys orders and stays with injured Tommo in no man's land that leads him to be court martialled despite both men surviving gas attacks and deaths of their fellow soldiers while in the trenches.
Both actors play their roles with sensitivity and despite the low key nature of the film there is an anti war message in its core. The film shows an England in the flux of change which the war accelerates albeit still too slowly for some.
General Haig signs Charlie death warrant while paying billiards in his country estate. No thought to delve deeper as to what actually happened. It is left to history to judge Haig.
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