The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Believe it or not, there are longer film titles. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – based on the historical novel of the same name by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – follows author Juliet Ashton (Lily Evans) as she endures a press tour across post-war Britain, promoting her new book. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from a Guernsey pig farmer (Michiel Huisman) requesting the location of a good London bookshop. Intrigued by many details in the message, including the existence of the said literary society, she engages in a correspondence and even travels to the island herself. She investigates the group and realises there’s a sumptuous and upsetting story behind it.
The plot is wrapped in a fascinating context: Guernsey shortly after the Nazi occupation. It’s a piece of British history not often shown or written about. And when Juliet attends lavish London parties with her military boyfriend (Glen Powell) – entertaining an escapist, Jazz Age-like mentality – the citizens of this remote community are still recovering from the scars of war. A member of the society, Elizabeth (Jessica Brown Findlay), was arrested and never seen again – peeking the heroine’s emotional curiosity – in a sub-sub-plot bearing a poignant resemblance to Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima Mon Amour.
But the narrative is cast into revoltingly romantic waters. These delicate traumas are exchanged for a predictable and poorly written love triangle between Juliet, Mark (the boyfriend) and Dawsey (the pig farmer). It’s the clichéd romance of fairytales, which feels dreadfully out of place among the grim accounts of Nazi war atrocities.
However, writers Kevin Hood, Thomas Bezucha and Don Roos excel in scenes where the book club are all together – discussing literature in manners so eccentric and entertaining. One wonders why there aren’t more of these moments to enjoy. The viewer is also shown the under-seen talents of Penelope Wilton and Katherine Parkinson – the former for the drama and the latter for the comedy, naturally. And Wilton, in particular, brings a frighteningly real and emotional portrayal of trauma, certain to rip the insides of anyone watching.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a pleasant watch, full of Zac Nicholson’s beautiful scenic visuals of Guernsey – showing the island in a somewhat fantastical light. But the sequences on the ground scream “made-for-television”, and it’s no surprise that the movie’s been picked up by Netflix for most of its international releases. It may even do better there than at the cinema.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is released nationwide on 20th April 2018.
Watch the trailer for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society here: