Directed by: Mike Newell
Starring: Lily James, Matthew Goode, Michiel Huisman, Jessica Brown Findlay, Katherine Parkinson, Glen Powell, Tom Courtenay, Penelope Wilton
Let’s face it, the world is going to sh*t. The world of cinema isn’t always just big explosive blockbusters, and scientific head-scratchers, and sometimes we just need a cosy, picture-perfect film to escape into and forget about all our problems. ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ may have a mouthful of a title, but it is remarkably easy to digest, and with a cast full of British national treasures and ‘Downton Abbey’ alumni, it’s all just pretty bloody lovely really.
Juliet Ashton (James) is an author who, after happening across a letter from a book club in Guernsey, decides to visit the eccentric group of characters and find out more about them. Faced with the German occupation of their small island, the society came together over books, friendship, and a rather unpalatable potato pie. However, under the surface there are secrets and questions that need to be answered.
The plot moves at the genteel pace of a Sunday evening BBC period drama, the costumes are gorgeous, and the scenery is incredibly picturesque. Likewise, the cast are very easy on the eye and its chock full of British acting institutions, giving it all the comfort and warmth of the titular pie. Lily James is always a delight on the screen, and she oozes an effortless likeable charm. Fellow ex-‘Downton’ star Jessica Brown Findlay might not have too many moments on screen, but her firebrand character is a constant presence and it is the reveals regarding this character that keeps the plot ticking over. These aren’t quite world-changing reveals, more a gentle clutch of the pearls, but this film never tries to be anything outlandish or ground-breaking.
It’s perhaps about 20 minutes too long, and to find a fault, it would be that the plot is a little thin. The German occupation of Guernsey provides a fascinating backdrop, but the atrocities of war are only ever briefly mentioned, hinted at, or they occur off camera. There are moments where the story feels frustratingly slow, and despite the aforementioned reveals causing a slight ripple, we all know it is going to end well, so there doesn’t always seem to be a purpose in taking things quite so slowly.
With great performances, and beautifully shot locations, ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ is a harmless slice of escapism. It is charming, twee, and just all-round delightful with its themes about the power of stories, friendship, and that good old British stiff upper lip. This is perfect lazy Sunday afternoon watching; your Mum and Nan will love it, and so will you.