Starring: Lily James, Michiel Huisman, Tom Courtenay
Director: Mike Newell
Running Time: 123 mins
The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society is a British film about a writer who, after exchanging letters with a fellow book lover from Guernsey, learns about the history of a secret book club kept up during the Nazi occupation of Guernsey, and so decides to travel to the island to write a story about the extraordinary lives of the members of The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society.
I was rather disappointed with this film. Although it’s a movie with a wonderfully elegant and sweet atmosphere, its story really lacks depth and originality, dragging on for two hours with a painfully predictable story arc that feels far more suited to a generic chick flick than something that seems, at least on the surface, as if it’s a little more intelligent and imaginative.
The main thing to know about The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society is that, despite its love for stories and books and authors, just doesn’t have enough ingenuity in its own right to ever prove an interesting watch.
I say that the plot of the film feels like a generic chick flick, and that’s partly down to the fact that its story emulates elements of Jane Austen, with Austen’s novels playing a role in the story itself. The difference is, however, that the allusions to Austen’s writing are either painfully blatant (the main love interest is called Dawsey instead of Darcy), or not well-established enough to feel like homages, but rather cheap and lazy elements of the story.
So, in attempting to emulate the likes of Pride And Prejudice, where the origins of the modern chick flick lie, this film actually shoots itself in the foot by failing to look anywhere else for a story that would prove more engaging for the viewer.
And that’s a real disappointment, because there is actually a lot to the premise that could have proved really rather interesting. Its setting on Guernsey is a unique opportunity to look deeper into the lifestyle of the island (kind of like how Mindhorn so brilliantly – and hilariously – portrays life on The Isle Of Man), while its focus on the period of German occupation during the Second World War is perfect for a different and intriguing take on the history.
And yet, while there are moments where those parts of the story do come to the forefront, the majority of the movie is still a predictable, generic, and really rather boring watch, failing to ever capture my attention beyond its aesthetics.
Now, as disappointed as I was with the story here, I was really rather pleased by those aesthetics. Much like a lot of similar genre films (especially those made by the BBC), this movie does a great job at placing you in the time period, with wonderful costume and production design that are thoroughly convincing, and nice to look at all the same.
What’s more is that director Mike Newell gives the film a really elegant atmosphere, complete with wonderful landscape shots of the island of Guernsey juxtaposed with the bustling centre of wartime and post-war London, something that plays well into another element of the story, in detailing the differences between island and city life that many may not expect.
With those excellent visuals, strong production design, and a subtle yet still elegant score that’s a pleasant addition throughout, there is at least some positive to take from the movie, in that you can sit back and enjoy its sweeter side.
Overall, however, I really wasn’t all that impressed with The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society. It’s a film that looks great, and has a wonderful atmosphere throughout, but its story is misguided and frustrating from start to finish, ending up more like a generic Hollywood chick flick than the imaginative and elegant drama it promises to be, which is why I’m giving it a 6.5.