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D: Michael Lander / 90m

Cast: Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, Susan Sarandon, Josh Lucas, Keith Carradine, Bill Pullman, Graham Beckel

Beginning with a major plot twist that most movies would leave until the final reel, Peacock is a small-town drama that focuses on notions of family and identity, as well as what it can mean to be part of a small-town community.

Murphy plays John, a painfully shy/socially awkward bank clerk who has managed to keep himself to himself in the year since his mother passed away, despite the best efforts of neighbours and some of the customers at the bank.  He lives in a large house next to the train tracks; when a carriage jumps the rails and ends up crashing into his back garden, narrowly missing him, his life becomes more complicated than he could ever have wished, leading him to discover things about himself that he would rather not have known.

Peacock - scene

Peacock is a beguiling movie, with Murphy’s performance firmly at its heart.  He shows the complexity of the character and the fragility of John’s mental state with an ease that is hypnotic, keeping the viewer glued to the unfolding events and eliciting sympathy at every turn.  It is a bravura piece, and the movie is worth watching for his performance alone.  It’s great to be able to add that he is more than ably supported by Sarandon, Pullman and Carradine, whose characters all want something from John, and use their apparent concern for him to advance their own causes.  Lucas serves as the nearest John has to a friend, while Page plays Maggie, a figure from his past who further adds to the problems he can’t seem to shake.  It all leads to a desperate climax with John sacrificing everything in order to be able to carry on.

There is much to admire in Peacock.  Aside from the quality of the acting – unsurprising given the cast involved – the cinematography by Philippe Rousselot is perfectly framed throughout and at times shows an almost painterly eye.  The editing, by Sally Menke (on her last film) and Jeffrey M. Werner, keeps the movie expertly paced, and the production design, especially with regard to the darkened interior of John’s home, is faultless; this is small-town America as even non-Americans will recognise it.

Director and co-writer Lander, making his feature debut, has a good eye for the nuances and undercurrents of small-town life, and manages everything with the confidence of a director with many more films under their belt.  He also knows how to keep a scene moving and when to switch focus from character to character.  And lastly, a mention for the score by Brian Reitzell: it ably supports the various emotional arcs of the characters and adds an appropriately melancholy touch to the proceedings.

Rating: 8/10 – a touching drama that becomes a character-driven thriller at the end but which remains grounded in credibility throughout; a minor gem.

Originally posted on thedullwoodexperiment website.