The most British thing since the last Lily James Second World War drama, The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society (hereafter mercifully referred to as ‘Guernsey’) is, thankfully, a great deal better.
Whereas Darkest Hour scrounged together real-life and very fictitious piecemeals of Churchill’s bunker years, Guernsey flocks to the English Channel for a snapshot of much more regular lives affected by extraordinary circumstances both during the War and long thereafter. Set in 1946, some time following the Nazi occupation of parts of the Channel, author Juliet (James), lacking inspiration, ventures to the titular island to find out how on earth a small group of residents came up with this most ridiculous name for their book club.
What will appear to turn on a wartime mystery is very much a traditional romance/drama that uses it’s abundantly rich setting as but a backdrop. The near obligatory rolling hills littering just about every exterior shot like much of what transpires will come as no surprise. It soon inevitably becomes apparent that there’s a great deal more to the paperback wrestlers just that bit beneath the surface, though Guernsey is frustrating for none of it’s revelations being intuitive nor at all readily discernible.
Everything we and Juliet uncover is not so foreshadowed as it is simply expounded upon because she asks someone, or because somebody tells her. Lacking any novelty or great appeal as a mystery, the exercise nonetheless succeeds in greatly endearing Juliet, together with ourselves, to the abundantly heart-warming cast of characters.
Jessica Brown Findlay, Katherine Parkinson, Penelope Wilton, Tom Courtenay and Game of Thrones’ Michiel Huisman headline an enviable cast of (mostly) English actors who ably bring to life the bookly cohort. Huisman is particularly captivating as the Guernsey local with more than one secret, together with his co-stars channelling a comfortably familiar yet utterly vibrant charm on which the film hangs its appeal.
Glen Powell, playing Juliet’s fiancée, unlike his co-stars is saddled with a character who in manner and deed, to the great detriment of any prevailing dramatic tension, leaves absolutely no doubt as to his trajectory. Filling the type of role that has been seen time and time again and only on rare occasions breaks the mould (ala An American In Paris), the abjectly familiar presence like so much of this film is as unobjectionable as it is unremarkable.
Still not infrequently a work that can be celebrated by book-lovers and romantics alike, Guernsey is just about as rainy-day as movies come.
The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society is in cinemas from April 19