Peter's Friends

(Kenneth Branagh, UK, 1992)


Peter's Friends is a contrivedly jolly and bittersweet affair from actor-director Kenneth Branagh.

It borrows a great deal from The Big Chill (1983), including character stereotypes and key plot moves.

It's unfair to criticise the film for being so brittle and superficial, since Branagh tells you as much in the first line of voice-over: here is a group of self-absorbed, upwardly mobile people bound together not by love or political commitment or shared cultural interests, but purely and simply by mutual embarrassment.

It is a painless, sometimes amusing viewing experience, kept busy by Branagh's undeniable directorial skill. The story mostly stays at a level of sexual farce and catty comedy of modern manners, until a rather awful attempt at topical solemnity kills the final scene.

Among the bright ensemble cast, Emma Thompson and Imelda Staunton impress, while comedian Stephen Fry as Peter puts a brave face on that unpardonable movie cliché – the sad, foppish homosexual who never has sex with anyone.

MORE Branagh: Dead Again

© Adrian Martin December 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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