John Skillpa (Murphy) is an unassuming bank clerk in the town of Peacock, Nebraska. After the death of his controlling mother, John develops another personality, that of Emma. Emma does not venture out of the house, except for the secluded backyard, and does all the jobs previously carried out by John’s mother.
When a railroad car crashes into John’s backyard, Emma is revealed to the town. John is able to pass Emma off as his wife and must balance his two lives in order not to be discovered. A feat made more difficult as the incident has propelled John and Emma to local celebrity status.
As John tries to go back to his secluded existence, Emma ventures out into the community. She is befriended by mayor’s wife and local do-gooder Fanny (Sarandon) who brings Emma further out of her shell.
John’s life is further complicated when local prostitute Maggie (Page) comes to him with a revelation. This information puts John and Emma at odds and they each deal with it very differently, but which personality will persevere?
Peacock is an unusual story that doesn’t quite fit into any single genre. On the surface you could call it a psychological thriller, though it doesn’t really hit any thrilling peaks. The trauma suffered happened before the events in the film, but does underpin the present. Peacock does, however, have more than a passing resemblance to Robert Bloch’s Psycho in both story and tone, with design elements reminiscent of Hitchcock’s theatrical version.
Emma’s journey is like a coming of age. As she becomes more self-aware, she braves breaking through barriers and becoming more exposed. As she becomes more involved in the community she needs more time and therefore begins to take it from John, causing more problems for him.
Cillian Murphy puts in a fantastic performance, pulling off two completely different characters convincingly. He lends credibility to the notion that none of the townsfolk realise that Emma is John in makeup and a dress. Ellen Page also shines here, showing us the anguish felt by a desperate single mother being manipulated by both John and Emma. The rest of the cast also turn in believable performances allowing you to identify with any one of them.
Peacock is a gentle film that can be, at times, sad and tragic, whilst at others heart-warming and redeeming. It is released by Lionsgate UK on download to own from 6th January and on DVD and download to rent from 20th January.
Review by Keiran McGreevy