Peterloo is quite a dull film. Its settings are mostly drab, many characters are unsympathetic, and the final riot is anticlimactic.
Among the film’s most glaring flaws is the cartoonish portrayal of all the poshos as psychopaths or idiots. Tim McInnerny’s turn as the prince regent, later George IV, even evokes his time in Blackadder, which generally showed aristocrats as the latter.
The feting of Mike Leigh, Peterloo’s director, by Corbynites and progressives is thus intuitive enough, and more so than the attempts by some to recast Peterloo as a significant event in British history worth including in school curriculums.
But in attacking the ruling political, military and judicial elites as variously out of touch, callous or careless, the film is convincingly pro-Brexit, in spite of Leigh’s implication that “intelligent, working people” were misled in the referendum.
The central complaint of the film is that working people need more say over their lives, and particularly that all men should be given the vote (and perhaps even women).
This is the same call for British “sovereignty” (read: lawmaking powers) to be returned from Brussels, and for Westminster politicians to stop pursuing policies that clash with voters’ wishes.
Anti-democracy campaigners may be less sneering today than their forebears, but they are just as convinced that they know best, and that people of quality – previously breeding, now education – should take decisions on behalf of the great unwashed mass of thickies.
Nothing drawn from watching Peterloo would incline you to agree.