Film review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (4 out of 5)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

It’s no surprise that a conflict that impinged on just about everyone in the world, saw millions die, and dramatically changed the life of many more is still the source of ideas for films today.

Some aspects of the second world war were taboo for many years, deemed too terrible to be portrayed or too controversial to be considered for an audience that still had memories of that time.

However, as the years roll by those subjects have been met head-on.

During the war, the Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by German forces and the residents faced very tough times and difficult choices.

This film, set in 1946, focuses (no surpirse) on the island of Guernsey and the decisions of a small group of residents.

Lily James plays Juliet Ashton, a successful author who gets a letter from a farmer in Guernsey Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman) who is part of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, created out of necessity one dramatic night during the occupation.

Intrigued by the group and looking for inspiration for an article, Juliet visits the island unannounced.

But as she delves into the origin of the society and the background to some of the members she is met with resistance.

Just what is the secret that haunts the society? Where is the founding member?

Lily James’ slightly over the top bubbly and giggly lead is a bit annoying at the start but develops into a far more serious and three dimensional character.

The highlight for me, though, is Penelope Wilton as Amelia Maugery, an islander who has suffered enormously due to the first and second world wars.

Her scenes are the most emotional and reveal just what a superb actor she is.

Tom Courtenay is as excellent as ever and Katherine Parkinson gets a welcome meaty movie role after her recent good work, mainly on TV.

Director Mike Newell serves up a real sense of the period and of the strong emotions of the time.

Overall it’s a very good British movie that deals with an aspect of the second world war that split families and communities.

Film details: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (12A) 124mins

Director: Mike Newell

Starring: Lily James, Matthew Goode, Michiel Huisman

Screening courtesy of Horsham Capitol