REVIEW: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Based on Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’ 2008 historical novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, the film depicts the horrific nature of World War II.

Set in 1946, when England is beginning to rebuild itself, director Mike Newell artfully tells a tale of suffering, love and strength.

Newell brings to life a tale of English residents silently opposing the Nazi occupation of Guernsey Island. Abandoned by Churchill, the island residents are left to starvation as they watch their home taken over by the Nazis and witness the horrifying cruelty to the Polish prisoners.

Lead actress Lily James beautifully portrays the young character of Miss Juliet Ashton, an up-and-coming author who, upon discovering the story behind the formation of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, travels to Guernsey to meet these amateur book critics brought together by war.

After meeting the society, Juliet enthusiastically announces her intention to feature their story in her article for the London Times. Society member Amelia Maugery (Downton Abbey co-star Penelope Wilton) immediately becomes cold and uninviting and demands that Juliet not publish the story.

Undeterred by Amelia’s frosty reaction Juliet remains on the island and makes friends with the members of the society and subsequently begins to uncover the secret they have kept quiet during the Nazi occupation. Desperate to help her new-found friends, Juliet stays on the island longer than anticipated, much to the displeasure of her new American fiancé Mark Reynolds, to uncover the fate of society member Elizabeth McKenna (played by fellow Downton Abbey co-star Jessica Brown Findlay), who was taken prisoner by the Nazis.

Just as Juliet begins to feel at home among the residents of Guernsey, she is forced to return to the mainland upon the arrival of her fiancé whose proposal she accepted minutes before boarding the boat on her journey to the island.

Upon returning to the mainland Juliet comes to a cliché realisation that she has fallen in love with society member Dawsey Adams (Game of Thrones’s Michiel Huisman) and writes the story of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. However she forbids her publicist Sidney Stark (Downton Abbey’s Matthew Goode) from publishing, insisting it is not her story to tell, and instead sends the manuscript to Dawsey.

Although the movie shares more dark tales about World War II and leaves the audience angered at the injustice of those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis, the movie finishes lighter as the residents of Guernsey begin to rebuild their lives.

The screenplay and cinematography of this film is particularly clever and, despite the historical setting, the quick British wit created a highly enjoyable film that left the audience feeling a little lighter than when the film first began. Highly recommended.