Things have not changed much in American film since the beginning of the previous century as stories and themes often still stick close to what was conveyed in the films of that time. Peace, Love & Misunderstanding is a story about a city woman, Diane, whose takes her children to her rural hometown for a much-needed getaway, after her husband asks for a divorce. As with the films of D.W. Griffith in the early 20th century, it is only upon the protagonist’s return to nature that she can reconnect with her roots, find herself and discover what really matters in life.
The picture-perfect setting of the small town – in addition to continuous representations of nature – is old hat. This archaism is even more pronounced by the fact that the entire town seems frozen several decades in the past. In its blatant juxtaposition of the uptight, city-girl Diane and her free-spirited, hippie mother, the film proves one-dimensional and predictable. Their opposing personalities are further emphasised by the deliberate contrast between nature and the city. Despite the former location’s blend of Utopia and the American Dream, the film manages to ground itself through its younger characters. The subplots which revolve around Diane’s son and daughter – the bumbling, aspirant filmmaker Jake and the academic vegetarian Zoë – are far more engaging. The two actors portray a convincing relationship as siblings, thanks in part to the script which steers away from turning them into a couple of bickering brats; but also through the strong performances of the actors, particularly from Elizabeth Olsen as Zoë.
It has its moments of charm and quirkiness, which uplift the film. These sometimes involve Diane’s eccentric mother; however, most of the time she proves to be quite exasperating and the more magical moments usually occur between the younger characters. The weak main plot and its inevitable conclusion keep the film from really going anywhere and in the end do no more than present us with an ideal, American world in which we sit around singing along to Jimi Hendrix and reading Walt Whitman.