Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society balances weighty themes and soppy melodrama

Lily James as Juliet Ashton in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Photo: StudioCanal

Lily James as Juliet Ashton in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Photo: StudioCanal/Kerry Brown - Credit: StudioCanal/Kerry Brown

Four Weddings And A Funeral director Mike Newell helms another film with a cumbersome title, a sweeping tale of self-sacrifice set amid the Nazi occuptation of Guernsey and starring Lily James.

Lily James as Juliet Ashton and Michiel Huisman as Dawsey Adams in The Guernsey Literary and Potato

Lily James as Juliet Ashton and Michiel Huisman as Dawsey Adams in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Photo: Kerry Brown. Photo: StudioCanal/Kerry Brown - Credit: StudioCanal/Kerry Brown

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (12A)

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About a quarter of a decade ago, the versatile British director Mike Newell, made a very British film with a longish slightly unwieldy title, Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Now he has made another very British film with a longer and much more unwieldy, slightly twee, title about a very un-British subject: living under Nazi occupation.

Lily James as Juliet Ashton in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Photo: StudioCanal

Lily James as Juliet Ashton in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Photo: StudioCanal/Kerry Brown - Credit: StudioCanal/Kerry Brown


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In 1946 London, Juliet Ashton (Lily James) is a successful author of frivolous, entertaining novels. Intrigued by a correspondence, and in search of material for an article, she travels to Guernsey to find out about the literary society, which was formed as a cover for the illegal feasting on a pig that they had managed to hide from the Nazis.

When she gets there though not all the Society's members are so pleased to see her; some dark secrets lurk undiscovered in their story.

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Adapted from a novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, the film strikes a sometimes awkward balance between weighty themes and soppy melodrama. It has a strong sense of how tough it must have been to be the only part of the British Isles to be overrun by the Nazis, but I'm not sure why they have to take it out on poor Juliet.

She is a somewhat flighty young thing but awfully nice. The Islanders, and the film, treat her as a representative of a mainland that didn't understand or care enough about their suffering.

Lily James as Juliet Ashton and Michiel Huisman as Dawsey Adams in The Guernsey Literary and Potato

Lily James as Juliet Ashton and Michiel Huisman as Dawsey Adams in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Photo: Kerry Brown. Photo: StudioCanal/Kerry Brown - Credit: StudioCanal/Kerry Brown

Ashton has an American finance (Glen Powell) who we immediately know isn't going to be right for her, seemingly just because he's got money and likes to have fun.

On the island, she is slowly drawn towards farmer and handyman Dawsey, (Michiel Huisman from Game of Thrones). Dawsey doesn't just hulk about like a young Liam Neeson, but is literate and compassionate so he is giving away the ending from the moment he smoulders onto screen.

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