Since his mother died John Skillpa (Cillian Murphy) has lead a quiet lonesome life, save for one constant companion. She cooks for him, cleans for him and leaves him notes so he doesn’t forget to hurry home after work the same way any loving wife would. Except Emma isn’t like any other wife or woman for that matter because Emma is actually John’s alter ego.
Hiding his secret split personality from the rest of the quiet small town of Peacock no one has ever seen Emma before that is until a train crashes into his back garden while Emma is hanging out the washing and everyone around suddenly wants to know everything about John’s mysterious wife.
Anxious to bring things back to normal John struggles to remove the train and Emma’s increasing involvement in his life and the lives of other locals franticly attempting to repress and reign in Emma’s new found freedom.
However his other side enjoys being out in the open and gradually becomes braver and bolder sparking a battle between the two very different personalities that can only lead to a tragic and deadly conclusion.
A deep and thoroughly interesting character study dramatic psychological thriller Peacock is an immensely involving story that always remains realistic and sensitive even when dealing with a subject that has been the center of so many less intelligent and heavier handed horror movies since Jekyll and Hyde.
Set in an unspecified past the tragic tale instantly draws parallels in the audiences mind with Psycho as it is revealed that the mild mannered social inept John was horrifically sexually abused as a boy with the Emma personality only manifesting itself after his oppressive and controlling mother died.
What works so well is the battle between the two personas that rages unnoticed by the other people around who are so caught up with their own agendas that they fail to realise what is happening right before their eyes.
This misconception is expertly weaved into the world in which the characters inhabit moving the story forward seamlessly towards a disturbing and terrible moment where history may well be doomed to repeat itself if John’s fractured mind can’t come together one last time.
Cleverly first time director Michael Lander stays away from the unsympathetic clichés and sensational stereotypes found in many split personality stories not only painting both sides of John’s psyche as fully rounded people neither one predominantly good or evil but giving both their own wants and desires making sure we care about John and Emma equally and making us ultimately unsure which one deserves to dominate the other.
With a brilliant ensemble cast including Susan Sarandon, Bill Pullman, Ellen Page and Josh Lucas all on fine form the film contains a tour de force performance from Cillian Murphy who further cements his reputation as a great acting talent, completely convincingly bringing both John and Emma to life and making them very separate and very believable human beings.
A dark and sometimes difficult film with plenty of depth Peacock is a great debut from Michael Lander containing a stunning set of character studies from Cillian Murphy both men expertly bringing to life a heartbreaking tale of a damaged human being split apart by his horrific past and desperate to find inner peace.