Director: Mike Newell
Cast: Jessica Brown Findlay, Tom Courtenay, Katherine Parkinson, Lily James, Matthew Goode
Watch The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society online in the UK: Amazon Prime / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a very ambiguous and slightly misleading title. Upon hearing upon it, one initially thinks: ‘Gosh, that’s a mouthful’ and then ‘I don’t want to watch a movie about baking pies.’ Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is not about pies. The bad news: it still doesn’t make you want to watch it.
The film is based on the novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, and stars Lily James as Juliet Ashton, a writer hired to write stories for The Times Literary Supplement. Set in 1946 in Post-War London, Ashton finds herself corresponding with a young man from Guernsey, who finds solace after the war in books. The man is Dawsey Adams (played, rather confusingly, by Game of Thrones’ Michiel Huisman) and he is a member of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – a society dedicating to reading books alongside perhaps the most British of British people, portrayed by actors including Penelope Wilton and Tom Courtenay.
Obtaining the classic traits of the average middle-class period drama, the film’s title is not the only thing that’s problematic. James is engaging and does her best with Ashton’s rigid character; she oozes old Hollywood glamour in this counterfeit 40s setting. However, her co-star Huisman is widely miscast and sadly not believable in his angelic albeit stiff role. Glen Powell – who portrays Ashton’s American love interest, Mark Reynolds – is the saving grace of this dynamic. Powell is charming and charismatic and arguably the most believable of the film’s characters. A prominent scene, which sees Reynolds and Ashton question their relationship, is by far the most exciting and truthful in the film, thanks to Powell’s genuine and authentic persona.
Powell and James aside, what you’ve got with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a lot of countryside and old knitted cardigans. Although the film explores an intriguing and sweet subject matter, the film fails to go deeper beyond the surface – feeling more like a high-brow theatre production with a very generous budget.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is the latest in a recent stream of British period dramas – Their Finest, The Limehouse Golem et al. – that make you ask the question: why do UK period dramas always have to remind the audience it’s a privilege to be British? These films will always be fine to fill the time on a rainy evening when you’re waiting for the Strictly Come Dancing results, but it’s made predominantly for the Downton Abbey viewer – failing to move an audience who might be looking for something different for a change.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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