The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society


Wheels keep on turning.

(2018) Drama (NetflixLily James, Michael Huisman, Jessica Brown Findlay, Glen Powell, Matthew Goode, Tom Courtnay, Katherine Parkinson, Clive Merrison, Bernice Stegers, Penelope Wilton, Kit Connor, Bronagh Gallagher, Florence Keen, Andy Gathergood, Nicolo Pasetti, Marek Oravec, Jack Morris, Stephanie Schonfeld, Pippa Rathbone, Rachel Olivant, Emily Patrick. Directed by Mike Newell

 

In 1946, England was still picking itself up and dusting itself off after the war. In London, the ruin of the Blitz was still very much in evidence and while there was an attitude of starting fresh, the pain and horror of the war wasn’t far from the surface.

Author Juliet Ashton (James) is making a tidy amount off of plucky war-set stories that are popular but bring her no intellectual satisfaction. A fan letter from a book club in picturesque Guernsey, a Channel Island that had been occupied by the Nazis during the war (a fact that this ignorant American wasn’t aware of) leads her to visit the club to perform a reading. She is captivated by the beauty of the island but even more so by the people, particularly those in the club. Although she is engaged to a flashy American diplomat (Powell), she finds herself drawn to farmer Dawsey Adams (Huisman). She is also drawn to the mystery of Elizabeth McKenna (Findlay), once the heart and soul of the club but whose absence nobody seems to want to talk about.

Mike Newell is one of the UK’s most capable directors with movies such as Four Weddings and a Funeral as well as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, one of the better installments in the franchise, to his credit. He does a marvelous job of evoking the post-war Era and gathering together an even more marvelous cast. James is never more attractive than she is here, and nearly all of the ensemble cast has some wonderful moments, particularly veterans Courtnay and Wilton, particularly Wilton who is much undervalued as an actress. There are sequences here where the raw emotions brought on by survivor’s guilt are communicated without theatrical hysterics. It’s a nuanced and brilliant performance that very nearly steals the show.

The romantic elements of the movie are a bit too sweet, leaving one with an unpleasant taste in the mouth – I truly wish that the plot had revolved more on the tale of Elizabeth McKenna than on the romance between Dawsey Adams and Juliet Ashton which came off like a British period soap opera only less interesting. I can’t not recommend a Mike Newell film however and the strong performances in this one make it a perfect candidate to Netflix and Chill.

REASONS TO SEE: The era is recreated beautifully.
REASONS TO AVOID: Contains more than a little bit of treacle.
FAMILY VALUES: The themes are somewhat adult; there are also some sexual references and occasional mild profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: James, Findlay, Good and Wilton also have appeared in the hit PBS series Downton Abbey; one of the filming locations for the show also doubled as exteriors for Guernsey (the Charterhouse in cases anyone is keeping score).
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Netflix
CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/24/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 81% positive reviews: Metacritic: 65/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Man Who Went Up a Hill & Came Down a Mountain
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT:
Jim Allison: Breakthrough

Pick of the Litter – August 2018


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

The Meg

(Warner Brothers) Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis. A decorated diver is recruited to rescue a submersible that has been attacked by a sea creature previously thought extinct and lies disabled on the deepest part of the ocean floor. With time running out for the crew, a rescue operation is to be mounted but there’s one hitch; the diver encountered the creature once before and is terrified of it. If the crew is going to be saved he is going to have to get past his fear of the 75-foot prehistoric shark known as Megalodon. August 10

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Nico, 1988

(Magnolia) Trine Dyrholm, John Gordon Sinclair, Anamaria Marinca, Sandor Funtek. Nico was a rock and roll legend and a rock and roll casualty. In 1988 she was living in Manchester, struggling with addiction and the demons brought on by fame. Dyrholm gives a searing performance as the former singer for the Velvet Underground who shunned her fame and yearned to live life on her own terms.. August 1

La Familia

(Film Movement) Giovanni Garcia, Reggie Reyes, Kirvin Barrios, Indira Jimenez. A father and son are barely squeaking by in the gang-infested barrios of Caracas. When the son gets into a scrape with ta boy he shouldn’t have, the father realizes they cannot stay and survive. The willful boy detests his father, whom he sees as a coward. A day laborer, he brings his son to work with him as he desperately tries to earn enough to get them out before they can be caught and killed, slowly showing his son what a straight life looks like. This played the Miami Film Festival earlier this year and Cinema365 reviewed it which you can read here. August 3

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

(FilmRise) Chloe Grace Moretz, Jennifer Ehle, Marin Ireland, Sasha Lane. The conservative guardians of a teenage girl send her to God’s Promise, a gay conversion therapy treatment center. Set in 1993, the movie is about the discovery of who you are and learning to be okay with it. This was one of the more talked-about films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. August 3

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

(Netflix) Lily James, Jessica Brown Findlay, Matthew Goode, Michiel Huisman. Following the end of World War II a writer comes to Guernsey Island to do a reading for their literary society. She unexpectedly bonds with the residents and determines to write a book about their experiences during the war which opens old wounds but could also bring much-needed closure. August 10

Juliet, Naked

(Roadside Attractions) Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, Chris O’Dowd, Lily Newmark. A young English woman’s boyfriend is obsessed with an obscure American rock idol who has been out of the spotlight for twenty years. A chain of unlikely events puts her in touch with the musician online and when he comes to London, the two get together and sparks fly. Who will she wind up with, the rocker or the schlubby boyfriend? August 17

The Night is Short, Walk On Girl

(GKIDS) Starring the voices of Gen Hoshino, Kana Hanazawa, Hiroshi Kamiya, Kazuya Nakai. A group of teens, following a time-honored ritual of college sophomores, go out on the town to drink as much as they possibly can. Senpai, a classmate who has a crush on one of the girls, contrives to find ways to “accidentally” run into her during the night in question. This is definitely not just for kids. August 21

 

An L.A. Minute

(Strand) Kiersey Clemons, Gabriel Byrne, Bob Balaban, Ed Marinaro. One of the most successful writers in the world who’s known for producing potboilers that get made into big budget movies, is eager to try his hand at something that has more meaning. When he encounters a vibrant and innovative young actress in a small theater, he is inspired. He then watches as her star begins to eclipse his own. August 24

Active Measures

(Super LTD) Donald J. Trump, Vladimir Putin, John McCain, Hillary Clinton. This is a look at Russian meddling into the 2016 Presidential election and how it happened. The collusion between Trump and Putin didn’t start with the election, according to this documentary – and it won’t end there. A chilling entry into the most recent Hot Docs Film Festival.. August 31

Pick of the Litter

(Sundance Selects) Don Hardy Jr., Dana Nachman. This heartwarming documentary follows a litter of puppies selected to participate in the Guide Dog training program. The standards are high and not every puppy will make the cut, but the journey will be one that you’ll never forget. August 31