‘THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL LIE SOCIETY’ is a quaint time-period drama starring Lily James now streaming on Netflix. This story is set in the aftermath of WWII and centers around a writer from London that forms an unsuspected friendship with a group of people from a small island off the coast of France. This group has formed a unique book club because of actions during the war which fascinates this writer. Inspired to write a story about them she travels to meet these residnets and finds her life impacted in ways she never imagined.
I knew little about this film prior to watching. But during the summer season as much fun as watching superheroes, over-the-top action movies, and other CGI filled spectacle films may be, it’s nice to change it up. That’s the joy of cinema. Being able to go back to a post WWII Europe with the push of a button, to take the journey of a more grounded narrative filled with natural character-types.
I appreciated the fresh tone of the story-line. The theme of unsuspected love was a focal point, but it didn’t dominate the run-time. This story peeled back the layers to a collection of interesting characters that built genuine intrigue. The film introduces the initial pieces to this story-line to generate solid interest, and from there it fills in the rest of the pieces with a nice timely progression that for the most part grip an emotional connection.
The cast overall was fantastic in their portrayals however Lily James was the shining light. She carried the story-line on her shoulders and once again delivers a performance that commands the screen but does so with a very unassuming approach. She comes off extremely natural as her character faces moral dilemmas and internal life contemplation that was just relatable enough to find seeing how the story will play out compelling.
The cast showcase a great chemistry with one another that effectively sold their various relationship dynamics as genuine. These people have been through a lot together and the unity that they found in that turmoil, was more than uplifting enough to find them endearing and likable. This makes you want to learn more about them as the story layers continually reveal themselves. The dialogue felt natural and the beats of the story played out with enough of a unique path to keep it feeling fresh. It did feel familiar at times, but never did it come off like it was blatantly borrowing elements. Apart from a couple of scenes. Yet I felt even they play out with charm given how they are worked into the fabric of the narrative.
Despite a collection of positives though, there were some minor issues for me. It was lacking some development in the main character. This plot hinged on her feeling surprisingly at home on the Guernsey, and it captured this feeling effectively at times. Yet there was a lack in backdrop to her that prevented me from fully being able to feel the emotional connection she was experiencing. She has a recently started relationship with an American serviceman that played out much more like a plot device than an emotional-arc the for the character. She has a strong relationship with her publisher that felt under-developed.
I also wanted to know more about her name being written in this book-cover that was the seed to the entire plot. So, while it did give me a lot to latch onto. It didn’t give me the all the answers I needed to find myself completely engaged in what was happening. Yet with a two-hour run-time, the opportunity was there had some of the extended scene openings, and repetitive moments later in the film been trimmed back.
This was however a beautifully crafted film. The production and set-design were immaculate. The landscapes and backdrops were stunning and immersive to pull you into the setting of the story more than most romantic-dramas can. The camerawork was also well-crafted. The lighting was well utilized, and the modern film techniques used were able to capture the beauty of the region and the detail of the sets with a nice visual appeal.
Which I felt was very complementary to the film, when it could have easily come off as distracting given the time-period setting. So overall, I enjoyed this film. I did want to know more so I could feel the full weight of the plot, but it was filled with great performances and more than enough of a charming narrative to make it worth a shot if you enjoy this genre.