Despite that title, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society proves unremarkable in its gentle cosiness
“Everyone lost someone in this war”
Directed by Mike Newell and written by Don Roos and Tom Bezucha from the novel of the same name by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society really ought to have hit the spot for me. Women-heavy wartime story – check, a cast including Lily James and Katharine Parkinson – check, and a title you can’t help but misremember.
But it never really clicks into gear as greater than the sum of these parts, sticking at a tone of gently cosy which is never offensive, but rarely remarkable with it. Set just after the end of the Second World War in 1946, the plot follows a London-based writer who becomes fascinated by the experience of the residents on the island of Guernsey which, lest we forget, was under German occupation.
Whilst a subject rich for exploration, we never get anywhere past the surface of this potential as the (soft) focus is turned on to a pseudo-mystery which masks a tawdry budding romance between Lily James’ city girl Juliet and Michiel Huisman’s Channel Islands farmer Dawsey. Which is all nice and sweetly done, but just feels like a complete missed opportunity when the emotional complexities of living under occupation are treated as a sub-plot.
For Dawsey looks after a kid called Kit, whose mother (Jessica Brown Findlay’s Elizabeth) is no longer around. And it is her story, her history that proves more fascinating as Juliet probes into the islanders’ silence to try and dig out the truth. There’s just no complexity to either Elizabeth’s story or Juliet’s investigation though, it all just comes off as a bit trite. Stick with Their Finest.