Wednesday, August 15, 2018


It feels as though the German occupation of the Channel Islands is rather under-represented in the output of British films about World War Two. Maybe it's because it doesn't fit in with the narrative of a the last bastion of resistance, the last nation unsullied by Nazis in Europe.  At any rate, here we are, with an adaptation of the tremendously popular book of the same name by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  I read it a few years ago, found it modestly interesting, a little too obviously attempting to move me, but still rather touching.  I could say much the same of this more or less faithful adaptation.  There's nothing too nasty or shocking or cry-making - just a generally benevolent feeling of decent people doing the decent thing.

The novel and film open after the war with a successful author (Lily James - DOWNTON ABBEY) intrigued by letters from a man in Guernsey, enquiring after a book, describing the lack of them in Guernsey after years of oppressive Nazi rule.  She eventually travels to the island to learn more about the disparate group of friends who created the society as an excuse to break curfew.  Slowly the author uncovers the tale of the enigmatic founder of the society (Jessica Brown Findlay - also DOWNTON ABBEY) and the darker side of the war.  In doing so, she falls in love with island, and the handsome man who wrote to her. 

The problem with this film is that it's so obvious. It tries to make too much of the story of what really happened to the founder, when it's actually pretty simple, if no less tragic for that.  The romance story - in both book and film - is also rather forced, and made no more credible by casting an actor who is patently not British (Michiel Huisman).  One also has a feeling of waste - insofar as good, and sometimes great actors aren't given much to do.  Jessica Brown Findlay reprises her Downton Abbey role as a feisty, rebellious but good and earnest girl.  Lily James reprises her role from almost everything she's been in, of being charming and kind.  Michiel Huisman does his usual eye candy thing.  Penelope Wilton, also Downton, also decent again... And poor Tom Courtenay is wasted. 

The upshot is that this film is a harmless way to pass the time, but very predictable, occasionally frightfully stagey and soppy.

THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL SOCIETY has a running time of 124 minutes. The movie is available to rent and own in the UK and is on Netflix elsewhere. 

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