***One of my frequent complaints is that I don’t do movies that are easy to find. I’d point out that most of those movies were requested by other people, so I know how difficult they are to find, but whatever, I’m going to try and do more movies and shows that are easily accessible, mostly Netflix. So, this film’s on Netflix right now. Enjoy.***
If you can’t tell from the title, this movie is British. Like, super British. Like, The IT Crowd meets Downton Abbey level British, which also describes the cast’s previous roles. Most of it takes place in 1946 in Britain and on the Island of Guernsey, something I feel that you might not know exists unless you watched a lot of BBC. However, it’s an amazing period piece full of great performances.
Juliet Ashton (Lily “I’m Cinderella” James) is an author who is looking to write stories about the benefits of literature following the end of WWII. She is contacted by a man named Dawsey Adams (Michiel “I’m Daario Naharis” Huisman), who found a copy of a book by Charles Lamb (this is a real person and, if you knew that, have a treat) that previously belonged to her. They start talking through letters and she finds out that, during the Nazi occupation of the Island of Guernsey, locals formed a club called the “Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” which served as their excuse to avoid the Nazi-imposed curfew. The Potato Peel Pie part is from one of the members making a pie out of potato peel since the citizens had nothing else to eat. Juliet heads to Guernsey to meet the members and discovers a number of surprising secrets about all of their lives and the lives of the people on the island recovering from the occupation.
The movie’s based on a novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows that I read on a flight about 9 years ago. I don’t have it that fresh in my memory, but the plot points do seem to mostly match-up. The book is mostly an epistolary novel, though, so you get a lot out of the movie because of the difference in how the characters are approached. In the book, everything has to be filtered through the perspective of the author of the letter, but in the film, as you’d expect, most of the action in flashbacks is just presented to you. It makes it feel a little bit more like a detective story, rather than a series of recaps of deductions and findings that were already made.
Every performance is pretty much spectacular, partially because the cast is phenomenal. James is likeable and upbeat and inquisitive without ever coming off as overbearing. The members of the Literary Society all have their own motivations and secrets which are conveyed well. Special mention has to go to Jessica Brown Findlay as Elizabeth McKenna, whose capture by the Nazis prompts much of the mystery. She’s not in it too much, but she manages to get across all that you will need from the character. Tom Courtenay, Katherine “I’m Jen from the IT Crowd” Parkinson, and Penelope “I’m Shaun’s mom in Shaun of the Dead” Wilton all shine in their parts as the other members of the Literary Society who used it as a way to cope with the reality of living under Nazi rule.
Without spoiling much, there’s a romantic subplot that is actually paced well, something that doesn’t happen much in any movie where it isn’t the focus. Hell, that’s impressive in films where it IS the focus.
The drawback is that the film is about 2 hours long, which is about 20 minutes and 2 subplots longer than you needed, but it’s a period piece, so you should expect that and compensate by having wine nearby along with fancy foods from exotic places, like Dates or Brie or Whataburger. It’s not a wholly original film, but it’s still got enough emotional hooks and great moments that it’s worth watching. Let me put it this way, if you like Downton Abbey, you will love this film. Personally, I’m glad I saw it.
If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.