The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: Wartime drama warms the heart

April 20, 2018

 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (CTC)

Rating: 4.5 / 5

 

Lovers of classic British novels transformed into films will be in seventh heaven with director Mike Newell’s (Four Weddings and a Funeral) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.


Based on the popular novel of the same name, it follows a London journalist, Juliet Ashton (Lily James), who has a pen pal relationship with a Guernsey farmer, Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman), over the delights of Charles Lamb’s Tales of Shakespeare.


Intrigued by the Channel Islands secret book society quaintly named The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Juliet decides to visit Guernsey with the idea of writing a story about the unusual group for The Times in London.


On arrival she is welcomed as a ‘real writer’, and drawn into the society, but the members soon quash her idea of writing about it, and Juliet starts to unearth some rather tragic secrets from Guernsey’s Nazi wartime occupation.


Feisty local Elizabeth (Jessica Brown Finlay) always stood up against injustice, and saw people rather than nationalities, which led to a clandestine relationship with a soldier and her wartime deportation
from the island by the Nazis, leaving behind her infant daughter to be cared for by Dawsey and a colourful pillar of the society, Amelia (Penelope Wilton).


Nobody knows what happened to Elizabeth and the journalist in Juliet is determined to unearth the truth and bring some peace of mind to the islanders left behind.


While becoming increasingly drawn to the local lifestyle, including a delightful friendship with the sweetly eccentric Isola (Katherine Parkinson), Juliet starts to realise she is living two lives, with a sympathetic and supportive literary agent Sidney (Matthew Goode) and a wealthy American fiancé Mark (Glen Powell) back in London.


As Juliet’s attraction to island life and love grows, it becomes clear that she is torn between her two lives and will have to make some dramatic decisions.


While there are winners and losers in this story, it is a typical Mike Newell film, and the characters we fall in love with are given a positive ending and hope for the future. While the past can’t be changed, the future can be assured, and that is Juliet’s quest.


Also in the society are the potato peel pie maker, elderly postmaster Eben (Tom Courtenay) and his clever young grandson Eli (Kit Connor). And if you wondered if Potato Peel Pie was a Guernsey delicacy, it soon becomes apparent that this is a culinary disaster that is a joke among the islanders.


It’s a fascinating picture of the only part of England that was occupied by the Germans and the devastating impact of that occupation. What makes the film such a joy are the wonderful performances from all the actors—especially the mature Penelope Wilton and Tom Courtenay.


The cinematography will make you want to visit Guernsey—but be warned that, while the film is set in Guernsey, most of it was filmed in Devon!


But it hardly matters as you are guaranteed an extremely pleasant couple of hours in another world with characters you will care about. 

 

Highlight: Excellent performances from the whole cast

Red flags: Adult themes

 

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