I love family implosion movies. In The Peacock’s Paradise, grandmother Nena celebrates her birthday with her whole family around her. The film is set almost entirely within her flat, as unspoken tensions rise and long-hidden secrets are revealed.
As the characters arrive, you feel the chess board being set. Nena and her husband Umberto have kept secret from their children that Nena also has been lifelong lovers with her neighbour and ‘close friend’, Lucia. Lucia’s daughter Caterina knows, but keeps it from Nena’s children, who are as close to her as siblings. Grazia, Nena’s daughter, is a wealthy divorce lawyer, who is yet to tell her family that her husband, Manfredi, has left her for a girl half her age, Joana. She feels a sense of shame and failure, especially in the presence of her brother’s family. Vito, a widower, is there with his new fiancé, Adelina, and his daughter, Alma. Adelina is nervous and insecure, constantly trying to impress Nena, who was close with Vito’s first wife, and feeling inadequate. Nena dotes on Alma, but is less enthused with her pet peacock Paco, who has been brought along to the party.
The whole afternoon plays out with tensions rising among the party, springing from secrets the others have no knowledge of. Feelings are bruised as characters step on unseen landmines.
But what makes The Peacock’s Paradise a little different is the level of warmth and resolution within the family. Sparks fly and people fall out, but there is a genuine niceness to everyone there, and the potential to reconcile is as strong as their bonds. Also, Lucia’s health is declining and she seems to be drifting into some kind of dementia, so an awareness of their own mortality hangs over Nena and Umberto, prompting the question of what is really important in the end?
A nice film with a warm and subtly passionate cast, providing a slice of human drama set across a sunny afternoon.