A woman sits in a toilet stall, dismayed after having just found that she is pregnant. After managing to compose herself, she walks back into the office, and it is only then that we discover who she really is – Candace van Houten, a candidate with a commanding lead for a US Senate race. Steven, her PR manager, and Ted, a senior campaign manager, find out about the news, and details about the chain of events which led to Candace’s pregnancy are unveiled, alongside the inevitable repercussions for her campaign. Decisions have to be taken quickly before the situation spins out of control, but the problem is that not everyone is on the same page.
‘Peppermint’ is a brilliant interlude into the world of politics as a sort of parallel existence to quotidian life, which necessitates different mindsets, moral codes, and decision-making processes. Each of the three main characters has their own agendas, and own pasts, and the implications of their decisions, as well as whatever spurred them to make them, are not immediately obvious. Tensions rise and fall as the three main characters try to adapt to the new circumstance, but whoever appears to dictate the tempo at a specific point isn’t necessarily in control. These details are meticulously crafted, and for the most part, they play very well. Some minor issues may distract from a complete immersion, such as some lines being spoken too softly or too far away from the camera, and music inopportunely juxtaposing too loudly over key conversations.
One of the main problems with ‘Peppermint’ is, ironically, also the element that allows it to shine in such a quick fashion: its snapshot view. We know next to nothing about Candace’s campaign, or about the other characters’ lives and situations, beyond the brief picture that is expertly painted for us. While it is indeed a powerful character drama that makes the most out of every little detail, it’s ultimately a very narrow case study into strangers. We all know that politics is a very messy and often dirty scene, so no surprise there, and without having anything to go on, the personal drama only grips the audience up to a certain point. As it is presented, this is merely a dramatic snapshot of the life of a random candidate for a random political position in a random place in the world. We cannot get a feeling for the overarching consequences and monumentally dramatic implications of Candance’s situation, hinted at throughout if we feel that the world would be exactly the same place regardless of what actually happens.
Make the mistake, though – the only major point of criticism remains a minuscule one, and as mentioned before, it is also the enabler of the film’s flow, energy, and carefully constructed exposition. ‘Peppermint’ feels like a theatre play that touches upon dark realities, constructs complex characters in a limited time, and plays them against each other beautifully. This project is certainly a triumph, and should definitely be enjoyed by many.