The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
dir Mike Newell
scr Kevin Hood, Thomas Bezucha, Don Roos
prd Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin, Mitchell Kaplan, Paula Mazur
with Lily James, Michiel Huisman, Matthew Goode, Penelope Wilton, Tom Courtenay, Jessica Brown Findlay, Katherine Parkinson, Glen Powell, Kit Connor, Andy Gathergood, Nicolo Pasetti, Amii Freeman
release UK 20.Apr.18
18/UK StudioCanal 2h04
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Life's a beach: Janes and Huisman

goode wilton courtenay
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Winningly warm and smiley, this British period film explores a little-known corner of Europe during World War II. The comedy and romance mixed with some strong emotional drama to keep the audience entertained, even if it's never particularly challenging. Most odd, however, is the decision to fragment the screenplay out of sequence, which leaves it as a collection of strong scenes without narrative momentum.

As London recovers from war in 1946, author Juliet (James) receives a letter from a strangely named society on the island of Guernsey and begins corresponding with pig farmer Dawsey (Huisman). Her interest piqued, Juliet pays a visit to this quirky book club, which perplexes her agent (Goode) and American fiance (Powell). In Guernsey, she discovers that Dawsey is surprisingly hot, and she also bonds with tetchy matriarch Amelia (Wilton), befuddled postmaster Eben (Courteney) and airy-fairy Isola (Parkinson). But they don't want her to publish their extraordinary story.

The script chops this story into vignettes scattered in seemingly random order to create a sense of mystery, with a series of revelations and several other shoes waiting to drop. It's a complex mixture of joy and pain with terrific characters who are tightly bound together. But the structure leaves this as a film an audience can sit back and enjoy and only occasionally engage with. The only narrative strand that runs in a relatively linear fashion is the most predictable one.

James is likeable as a steely and intriguing woman far ahead of her time, arguing that Anne's female empowerment message makes her the most important of Bronte sister. Indeed, the strong-minded Juliet never lets men push her around. James makes her pretty and feisty, but never vulnerable enough to capture our hearts. That is done, seemingly effortlessly, by the great Wilton in a brittle, deeply felt performance. And of course the slick Powell is no match for the rough-around-the-edges Huisman.

Director Newell makes everything looks terrific, including both clever digital work and grand scenic vistas. And the period detail is excellent, even if some elements are a little trite (Dawsey wears the same jumper, with the same holes, in the flashbacks). So even though the film is packed with big issues, it never feels like it cuts through the surface, riding along amiably enough to keep the audience watching. But there's a lot more in here that could have added a proper kick.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 9.Apr.18

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall