Sunday, February 3, 2019
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society - A Netflix Original Film - Review
We first see writer Juliet Ashton in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society, a Netflix Original, as she's looking for a place to live in immediate post-war England, after her flat has been made uninhabitable by the German blitz. The war is over, and she's scheduled for a reading at a local book shop. Soon, she receives a letter from a reader on Guernsey Island, in the North Sea, requesting help in finding a copy of Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare, which she sends him. In the correspondence that follows, she becomes aware of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society. Sensing a story, she decides to take a brief leave from her new American fiance to explore the possibilities of a new book. When Juliet arrives on Guernsey, she is immediately captivated by its beauty and isolation. As she becomes acquainted with the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society, however, she becomes aware that there are secrets and deep anxieties leading them to refuse her permission to write their story. The resulting sleuthing by Juliet and her increasing closeness to the quirky members of the society leads to a deeply engaging story of love, discovery, and redemption.
Guernsey is one of a group of islands located just off the coast of France in the English Channel generally referred to as "the Channel Islands." It is self governing, having a strange relationship with England, which serves to protect the island as well not regulating it as a part of England. As such, it's largest function has become serving as a banking center for English tax-free commerce. During WW II, it was occupied by the Germans, who exported a large number of children to Germany, although most were evacuated to England before the invasion. Much of the story revolves around incidents to occurred during this occupation about which there are still mysteries and bad feelings as the movie progresses. In many ways, the theme of the film examines the characters as they cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is accomplished through superb story-telling and dramatic interaction without preaching or excessive emphasis. At a little over two hours in length, The Guernsey Library and Potato Pie Society, takes its time to reveal the source of community anger and sense of loss in an entirely satisfactory manner.
Lily James as Juliet Ashton and Michael Huisman as the islander who first contacted her, Dawsey Adams, are restrained and pleasingly affective in their performances. A group of older acting warhorses, led by Tom Courtney (whose movie and tv credits go back to the 1950's and Penelope Wilson (perhaps best known for her role as Isobel Crawley in Downton Abbey) also a veteran character actor, provide outstanding performances filled with warmth, pain, and humor.
I think maybe my tear ducts have begun leaking more as I grow older, but I have to admit that this story had me dripping by the end. A first rate film that hits home on the emotional as well as intellectual levels, telling a fine story with elegance and restraint while moving viewers and making them think about the many layers of human experience.