Tuesday, 1 May 2018

"The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society" - A Review of the 2018 Film by Mark Barry...

"The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society"
A Review of the 2018 Film


"...This One May Work Its Magic On You..."

I can understand how someone could find "The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society" twee and even a tad schmaltzy. But the audience I saw it with loved the movie and wiped away a few tears as the credits rolled.

Defying her extraordinary beauty so it doesn't work against her like she did in "Darkest Hour" - once again actress Lily James shows what she can do when given a leading role. She is properly great as author Juliet Ashton – a young female novelist in London post WWII doing a small book tour she doesn’t believe in to pay the bills. Using the pseudonym Izzy Bickerstaff – she is a dreamer that longs for real connection. Her literary agent offers a lifeline when she is suddenly commissioned to do a story for the Times Newspaper. Ashton will travel to Guernsey to investigate a group of like-minded word-lovers who used a book club to survive the slow drain of all freedoms as the Nazis occupied the Chanel Island in 1941. What she doesn’t expect is friendship, life-changing stories that will inspire a book and the unconditional love of those who had to endure years in servitude whilst now struggling with the consequences, the strange aftermath they find themselves lumbered with.

It helps that the clever story and cast are perfectly matched - Matthew Goode as her literary agent Sidney Stark whose more than a little in love with his own client - Glen Powell as her well-to-do American soldier Mark Reynolds who has put a huge sparkler on his beau's index finger (although she proclaims her love for him she seems unwilling to wear it once she gets to the English Chanel island and meets a local farmer she's been corresponding with) - and Dutchman Michael Huisman as the handsome and goodhearted islander pig-farmer Dawsey Adams who feels a kindred spirit with the English lass from London – a gal with a hankering for Jane Austen and Charles Lamb and can quote whole passages to prove it.

Other notables are Jessica Brown Findlay as the feisty Elizabeth McKenna whose heart and compassion have her taken away by the Germans leaving behind a trail of secrets and wounded hearts - Ireland's Bronagh Gallagher as the embittered religious zealot landlady who seeks to poison Juliet Ashton's enquiries into what really happened to Elizabeth - and especially Penelope Wilton as the frail hurt-to-her-core Amelia Maugery - a woman who has lost too much to the enemy and is unwilling to retell their island stories of occupation for fear of more of the same. Throw in great parts for Katherine Parkinson as the naive and yet magical Isola Pribby and Tom Courtenay as the big softy postmaster Eben Ramsey - and you're firmly in the silver-haired arena of movies. Special mention should also go to little Florence Keen who almost steals the show as the child Kit who looks up to handsome farmer Dawsey and calls him 'dad'. The flashbacks to WW II and then forward to a post-war island one year after work well and are at times amazingly informative - giving insights into a side of that very British War that is rarely discussed.

For sure there are those who will cringe at ah-shucks humour, poo-poo the good-looking leads as unrealistic representations of ordinary folk despite Huisman and James’ fabulous onscreen chemistry, find factual continuity errors and wonder at the sheer size of Lily James' costume wardrobe when she packed one case with some typing pages, an ink fountain pen, wool hats and a possible pair of lacy knickers. But that rather distantly cold assessment does this lovely little movie a massive disservice. Using a team of three screenplay writers - Director Mike Newell has taken a beloved book and done it proud - even if the fishing harbour and town scenes framed by Zac Nicholson's cinematography come over at times like a Downton Abbey Reunion or that Ridley Scott Hovis Advert cranked up to two hours instead of two minutes. And anyone who loves books and the connections they make will quietly quiver inside with page-turning delight as the scenes unfold and favourite booky discussions take centre stage – by the end probably succumbing to an urgent need to crack open a classic right quick.

The accusations of triteness, nostalgia stroked and throwbacks to a simple-life world that no longer exists probably have a real-world point - but bugger them all and knob to their cynicism. There's heart in this film, pathos, sadness, bravery, romance, gentle wit and ultimately a satisfying redemption of sorts. And the audience I was with 'felt it all'.

2018's "The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society" is a gorgeous big-screen watch - an uplifting story - and another win for seriously good writing, direction and ensemble casting. I urge you to seek out this audience-warming gem of a movie...

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