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Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Roslyn Hull

A writer forms an unexpected bond with the residents of Guernsey Island in the aftermath of World War II, when she decides to write a book about their experiences during the war. IMDb 

This film may be the antidote for Infinity War – it is certainly its antithesis.

By the way, I have to say that the ability of Marvel fans to keep mum until they are sure all their friends have seen the film is amazing. If this lot had been in World War II, Göring’s spies would have had nothing to report! So ‘no names no pack drill’, I’ll just say that there is so very much to see in the latest instalment in the Marvel universe that it is visually exhausting.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, however, is like a cool glass of water after a freakshake of superheroes…or better yet, a beaker of homemade gin.

Unless you count some mocked up battle damage to a harbour building, I do not think there is a nanosecond of computer animation or special effects in the whole thing. Real landscapes are used to depict real places and it is all very beautiful to look at, in a Bronte-esque way. I am only a tiny bit disappointed to discover the exteriors were not shot on Guernsey but in Devon. I expect the Channel Islands of today are vastly different to the impoverished, post-occupation landscape of this charming story.

I loved the book and thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Yes, it is Englishly proper and polite but that does not make the story any less moving. While we last saw her as Cinderella, Lily James does an interesting, watchable line as a proper English gel finding her path and her true voice. Even though there are no jet black villains for her to battle, the way she wrinkles the story out, little by little, from each member of the Literary Society, is done really well.

Each member, even young Eli, has something to contribute to the story. The adult members are, naturally, excellent. Penelope Wilton, the mum from Humans and the national British treasure that is Tom Courtenay all give their characters soul. Whilst it isn’t a Marvel mid-credits sequence, the credits are rolled whilst we listen to snatches of readings and conversation from a meeting of the Society. I would have actually happily watched a film of that and I was not alone in just sitting, listening either.

Then there is Michiel Huisman, the delicious Dutch actor from Game Of Thrones and Orphan Black as the pig farmer who writes letters. Sigh. I don’t want to be inappropriate but, forget ‘Reylo’ for a while, ignore all pop culture and just, um, bask. Yum.

A different British war experience to what we’ve seen before, it is rich without being demanding, polite but romantic. So take your Mum to a movie for Mothers Day – or treat yourself (you deserve it).

Roslyn saw this film as a guest of Limelight Cinemas Tuggeranong. She also saw Avengers: Infinity War as their guest but then discovered she would have her tongue cut out if she said anything about it.

Images: Supplied. 

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Ros Hull

Roslyn is a writer and storyteller who loves all things Canberra, her family, sci fi and movies – but not in that order. She has worked in museum education since 2001 and has a passion for imparting knowledge to others. Writing is her happy place, particularly if there is a dog at her feet and a coffee in her hand. More about the Author