The name of the movie is a mouthful. That qualifies as a good title from me.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a 2018 historical romantic-drama film directed by Mike Newell(Four Weddings and a Funeral, Harry potter and the Goblet of Fire) and written by Don Roos and Tom Bezucha. The screenplay is based on the 2008 novel of the same name, written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. The film stars Lily James, Michiel Huisman, Glen Powell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Katherine Parkinson, Matthew Goode, Tom Courtenay and Penelope Wilton. Set in 1946, the plot follows a London-based writer who begins exchanging letters with residents on the island of Guernsey, which was under German occupation during World War II.
Growing up, romantic movies pissed me off. What with their cliches and stupid storylines with zero stakes. That often made the leads romance feel like a privilege because they dont have actual matters to worry about. But every now and then, we get a beautiful romantic movie that proves me wrong.
I am a huge fan of period pieces. They are after all just another form of fantasy, talking about a time past, a time that will never return. Just another world where you can escape to for 2 hours.
Guernsey is not a land of fantasy. Its a land still recovering from the last war. Its a land where the past wounds have yet to heal. Juliet Ashton is an author from London. She has had a successful run under the pen name Izzy Bickerstaff. She wants to start publishing with her own name and is engaged to an eligible bachelor. Her life seems perfect on the outside. However one flashback shows that she too is reeling in the aftermath of the war. Something she feels her American Fiance does not share with her. Another scene of her wanting to a buy a house cements the idea that she is infact still suffering from her family tragedy and feels there are not enough people around her who would understand. She feels like marrying Mark, her fiance, might help her move on from this and move forward in life. But a letter from an unknown man from the small island of Guernsey makes her reevaluate her choices.
The letter and Juliet’s visit to Guernsey comes across as a reaffirmation of her feelings towards the war. The feeling of being lost and hopeless and in search of answers. She finds companionship in the people there who seem to have been afflicted as much as she is. The movie does a wonderful job of creating a sense of homeliness in the characters and setting of Guernsey. Being from London, a big city girl visiting a small island village. The movie shows a stark contrast in the busy and bustling London city and the quiet and calm Guernsey. How a quaint town, with people who did not bother with things other than their own, is still plagued from the remnants of the war. Abandoned buildings and fences all around, a reminder of their strained past. Juliet feels like she is part of something bigger. That these things matter more than the comfortable life back in London.
The film establishes a very cozy looking town on an island. The characters on Guernsey are sweet and courteous albeit a little guarded. Each of the character is given a nice backstory, adding to the richness of Guernsey. Despite having several characters, the movie devotes time to each, without being cumbersome. It does a great job of bringing their stories together. Lily James is fantastic as Juliet Ashton. I have been a huge fan of James since Downton Abbey days and she seems to prove her met with every role. She enjoys her life in London but also has a nuanced discomfort about her situation. She is not happy but she tries she should be because everything is going right. Michael Huisman is fantastic as Dawsey. He has secrets but is also fond of Ashton. They both had amazing chemistry in the movie. Jessica Brown Findlay does a great job as the brave Elizabeth. She is clearly the brains of the group and is responsible for spontaneously coming up with the ludicrous literary society in the first place. Katherine Parkinson is fantastic as the gin enthusiast Isola Pribby. Penelope Wilton reuniting with Findlay and James from Downton Abbey days. Along with the rest of the cast including Mathew Goode and Glen Powell make for a very colorful ensemble of characters. Very single tone cast though, but I guess it makes sense in the setting, so I am not mad. Despite not having characters that are related to each other, the movie creates a small family.
Its a beautiful film that not only explores the beauty of the small town but also its people. At least in fiction. I am sure Guernesy is wonderful in real life too. But at least in film, it creates a very homely and familiar place that you cannot help but admire. There is romance but I always felt that the story of the people of Guernsey always had greater importance in the plot. This movie is best enjoyed bundled up in a blanket on a rainy day with a hot cup of coffee in hand. At least for me anyway.
What did you guys think about the movie? Do you have any suggestions for feel good period dramas? Let me know.
Until next time.