Monday, 10 June 2019

Peel ★★★★☆

The “coming of age” genre is a classic that will most likely never go away, and has inspired a whole host of great films from ‘Stand By Me’ to ‘Juno’. ‘Peel’ is the latest one to arrive on our screens, but with a little bit of a difference – the main character is a 30-year-old adult.

Peel Munter (Emile Hirsch), nicknamed for his dark orange hair, lives alone with his Mum after his Dad took his brothers and left some 25 years ago. He’s innocent and simplistic even in adulthood, relying heavily on his Mum for anything adult. The two of them have an unbreakable bond, so when she dies and leaves Peel all alone he’s not quite sure what he’s supposed to do. Naïve and unprepared, Peel invites three suspect roommates into his house, all hell-bent on delivering the ultimate party right from Peel’s family garden, and eventually plucks up the courage to seek out his two brothers, Will (Troy Hill), and Sam (Shiloh Fernandez), though quickly discovers that everything isn’t as it once was.

I’ve got so used to watching films that are at least two hours or more (or over three hours, if you’re Marvel) that I was really surprised by the running time of ‘Peel’, which clocks in at around 1 hour 40 minutes. Given that Peel doesn’t start looking for his brothers until around halfway through I was concerned that the story wouldn’t be as elaborated on as it could have been, however, the pacing is actually pretty good throughout. There are loads of little things that could have been expanded on, from character backstories to even some more moments from Peel’s past, but on reflection, these weren’t needed to bring the story to life.

There’s good acting all round – characters are strange but all unique and their own personality, from Roy (Jack Kesy), the shifty racetrack degenerate who seems to switch frequently between good and bad to Chuck (Jacob Vargas), the Mexican moon-shine creator who clearly understands English but speaks in Spanish only for the entirety of the film (bar one line). I would have liked to see more from Garrett Clayton who plays Chad, a character that should have been explored in more depth. Hirsch gives an excellent performance as Peel, an interesting character with a Forrest Gump vibe who provides a refreshingly simplified view of life to the audience. I found his performance quite heart-warming, and his lack of understanding totally believable. 

The innocence of Peel, especially when he discovers that life is wildly different to what he’s experienced, resulted in me becoming quite emotionally invested in the film. Some moments, in particular, are difficult to watch, such as one scene where he reunites with brother Sam, who gives a charged performance that leaves you feeling so bad for Peel. His mental capacity makes it hard for him to understand why people might be angry at him or mistreat him and this is particularly heart-wrenching for the audience, and really well done. 

Although a little bizarre at points, ‘Peel’ is a great example of how a “coming of age” drama should be done – a good blend of comedy and tragedy, combined with beautiful visuals that don’t highlight the film’s low-budget. Films like ‘Peel’ will remind you why the indie genre is such a good one, so it’s well worth a watch. 

Hannah Read

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