Movie #12 2021: The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. Try saying that ten times fast. Not to worry though, that’s actually good reason behind that mouthful of a film title. (I won’t go into that here however, as summarising its origins so concisely would be doing it an injustice.)

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society is based on a book of the same name and set on the island of Guernsey shortly after the Second World War. Lily James stars as a free spirited writer named Juliet, who travels to the island for material for her next newspaper editorial, meeting up with the members of the titular society. What she never expects is to fall in love with every single one of its members, even after she uncovers some dark truths about how they came to be.

For the record, I only watched this because I kept seeing it everywhere. It was truly following me around like a bad smell and it was pissing me off to no end, so I had to watch it. Admittedly, I had no idea what it was about, but it was actually far more interesting than I imagined it would be, even if it’s mostly predictable. 

Mike Newell makes consistently “good” films (Donnie Brasco, Four Weddings and a Funeral), but he doesn’t make great films. This one is no different. It’s just “nice” really, and that’s fine by me.

First though, I have one small critique: this movie is so white, man. There’s not a single person of colour in the main cast, and just a handful of black males in background roles in the less important scenes. I know it’s set in nineteen-forties Britain but come on. I felt blinded by the sheer paleness of these people. Saying that, Michiel Huisman – despite the dodgy accent – and Penelope Wilton are always a pleasure, so not all was lost. Wilton is particularly wonderful in her role, bringing more depth to her relatively small part than you could imagine.

Aesthetically, this ridiculously titled film is incredibly lovely. Post-world war costuming, hair and make up really does wonders for a movie, bumping it up to the next level when it comes to visuals. The camerawork is interesting at times and precise too, but nothing special when it comes down to it. Nevertheless, it’s pretty enough to maintain a sense of whimsy. 

It’s way too long, coming in at just over two hours, and is basically a glorified, lengthy episode of Downton Abbey, but there’s a sense of mystery within it and some above average performances that will keep you drawn in.

A pleasant surprise indeed – there are much worse ways to spend your time in lockdown! Now, I hope it’ll stop following me around now that I’ve given in to its advances…

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society is available to stream on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video in the UK.

TQR Category Ratings:

Costume & Set Design: 
Overall Enjoyability Rating:  (it’s actually more of a 3.5-3.7 affair, but I’ll repeat: definitely worth the watch.)

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