The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie society is an enjoyable but frankly unmemorable film. A period drama set in England in the aftermath of World War II, it tells the story of a charming writer (Lily James) who forms an unexpected bond with the residents of Guernsey when she decides to prepare a book about their experiences during the war.
Despite its apparently unconventional title, this film is exactly what you expect. A period drama with a lovely young lead, beautiful locations, fun characters, romance and a little mystery. It is what I call a holiday film. While I was watching it, I was caught up in the world the film creates and enjoyed the story. Once I left the cinema, I realised how much about the film wasn’t that great.
So the main issue with The Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is that it is not bad, but it is nothing special either. The cinematography serves the story well, but there were no original or breathtaking images. The actors are all good, but their characters don’t give them enough interesting acting opportunities. The mystery was intriguing, but all the lead character had to do to uncover the secrets of the Island was ask a few questions here and there. Many interesting themes were introduced such as the Nazi collaboration, the trauma of separated families, the culture shock between life in town and the countryside during and after the war, and on a more uplifting note, themes such as the power of literature to connect people across time and space. But these interesting themes were sadly underexplored.
I had the strong feeling that this film was meant for an audience who had already read the book. The beginning was quite confusing. We were plunged into Juliet’s London life, and it took some time to understand who was who and what was going on. The story becomes clearer when she arrives in Guernsey but even then I thought the relationships developed very fast. The romance between Juliet and Dawsey (Michiel Huisman), her correspondent from Guernsey, made more sense when I understood towards the end of the film that they had been writing to each other for a long time. In the exposition of the film, we only saw them send one letter each.
But for all its flaws I enjoyed this film, and I think that was due to the beautiful costumes and set design. They immerse us in the past but never distract us too much from the story. I could easily imagine eating a potato peel pie with the eccentric members of the book club.
You can still watch the Guernsey and Literary Potato Peel Pie Society in York’s Everyman Cinema.
Every Tuesday it’s student night in Everyman! For £11.50 you can enjoy one admit to the film, a small popcorn and an Estrella Lager.
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