Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Written by Rita Rudner and Martin Bergman
Starring Kenneth Branagh, Rita Rudner, Emma Thompson
Reviewed by Claudine Chionh
Peter's Friends has both admirers and detractors. It has been both praised for its natural feel and criticised for being contrived. A slow-moving but insightful comedy/drama, it is full of irony which forces us to reflect upon our own attitudes.
Peter, a rich bachelor, who doesn't seem to need to work, invites his former colleagues from an Oxford comedy group to his newly inherited country mansion for the weekend.
It is to be a reunion and a celebration of the new year, but old wounds are reopened and new conflicts arise. Relationships are questioned, and there is much bitterness and antagonism until the last few minutes of the film, when peace is restored. The ending, though happy, carries with it some foreboding, and one senses that over two days the characters have grown by years.
Andrew is a playwright who was drawn by the lure of instant success and wealth to Hollywood, and now writes sitcoms in LA. He is married to Carol, the star of his show, a delightfully horrible health fanatic who has a problem with her appetite.
Roger and Mary have found that raising a family may cause more pain than joy. Maggie is a lonely publisher who faces becoming an "old maid", and Sarah is a capricious woman whose problem seems to be too many men.
The characters are essentially stereotypes, and the situations not uncommon, although presented in unpredictable ways. Rather than one or two central characters, there are eight who are equally important, and all are given the opportunity to reveal their personalities.
The comedy arises out of the story, making it more
realistic. Likewise, the more emotional moments are natural consequences of the actions of the characters. Comedy and tragedy are interwoven to form a coherent, believable film. The messages are very subtle and can be easily missed, but for alert viewers Peter's Friends is a rewarding experience.