This Showtime version of John Knowles’ A Separate Peace will bring joy to high school teachers everywhere. Finally, there is a quality movie version to show in English class. Peace is usually mandatory reading in high school (I know I read it), and follows the story of Gene and Finny. Their prep school relationship is ambiguous, and character motivations are a little more complex in the novel (dare I say…a little more provocative?). But, at its core, the novel and this adaptation is a coming of ag… tale. On the brink of World War II, prep school boys are coming to terms with growing adulthood. The private school “feel” is just right, and the director (Peter Yates) is an old vet. He directed Steve McQueen in Bullitt for crying out loud. Yates also directed the masterful film The Dresser, guiding great peformances by Albert Finney and Tom Courtney. Yates direction here is graceful. He gets excellent performances from his cast.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio mix is quite good. Rear channels are surprisingly active. The dialogue comes through very clear and clean. The musical score, although grating at times, soars.
The 1.33:1 full frame transfer shows a few compression defects. Slight shimmering and fuzziness can be detected throughout. However, the film is beautifully shot. The prep school, the mist, and the woods all have a magical quality. Very little grain could be detected.
Finny and Gene can finally be immortalized on film. The book, of course, is a classic. This film adaptation is not as good as the novel (how could it be), but ranks as a worthy contender. Yates’ exquisite direction makes the difference.