August 20, 2018 7:35:02 am
Like other mortals, I judge movies and TV shows by their titles. I know I shouldn’t, but I just cannot help it. It’s not as if I base my entire decision as to whether to watch them on the title, but somewhere inside my mind, it plays a small but significant role. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, based on the epistolary novel of the same name, is an unusual title for a movie. A very British title, I thought, and I was not surprised when it held a nice little story in itself. Oh, and the movie is also a very British one, and I mean that in the best way possible.
While The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society tackles many themes – perhaps more than it can handle – it is, for me at least, about the love of reading. It is also not a serious film. The story is simple enough. Four friends in the island of Guernsey find themselves confronted by Nazi soldiers during German occupation in 1941 while returning after a clandestine feast of roast pork. Asked as to what they are doing at the dead of the night (Germans were under the impression that they had taken all the pigs to feed their soldiers), they hastily cobble together the name of a literary society and said they are returning from one of its meetings. Later, after the war is over, a pie made of potato and potato peels is actually invented by one member as an in-joke.
The excuse works. And it leads to something real. The group of delinquents develops a deep love for literature that an avid reader like me could not help but empathise. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society comes into being. Fast-forward five years in future, and the protagonist of the story is looking to write about the society in The Times Literary Supplement. Juliet Ashton (a sparkling Lily James) is an author who begins a correspondence with Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman; you may know him as Daario Naharis in Game of Thrones), one of the members of the society. They bond over mutual penchant for Charles Lamb and Dawsey tells her about the society.
Juliet comes down to Guernsey to learn more about the society members. While she receives a celebrity-like treatment (published authors always do among readers), she also learns that they don’t want her to write about them, and they will not tell her why. This ‘why’ forms the crux of the story, and I believe it is worth investing your time in peeling the layers off this mystery.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is an engaging film. The characters are well-drawn and the cast is great too. The setting is also quite well-realised, and the English countryside (though I learn Guernsey is a self-governing Crown territory and not part of the UK) never loses its charm. The only thing that can bother some people a little is the absence of any high stake, but other than that The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a delightful little film that should particularly appeal to those fond of the quaint British rural setting.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society streams on Netflix.
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