We open up on the Island of Guernsey in the English Channel in 1941 with the Island under German military occupation. Four civilians are walking at night on a country road. One of them is very drunk and singing, much to the dismay of the other three. Suddenly they are confronted by German soldiers. One of the civilians starts to run away, only to be stopped by more soldiers. They are asked for their papers and are informed by a German officer that they are breaking curfew. They are asked by the officer why there are assembled. Elizabeth (Jessica Brown Findlay) tells the officer that they had a book club meeting. When asked what the name of the club is they all reply ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.’ The very drunk Even (Tom Courtenay) throws up on the German officer’s boots. The German officer has had enough of the group and tells them to register the society first thing in the morning, and then he lets them go.
We then go to London, post war 1946. A young woman, Juliet (Lily James) and her publisher and good friend, Sidney (Mathew Goode) are riding on a bus. They talk about Juliet doing an article on reading, which Juliet is hesitant to take on. Sidney thinks she can write the article before she starts her book tour. They get off the bus to go to a bookstore, and we see that Juliet has written a book using the pen name Izzy Bickerstaff, with a book of short stories entitled ‘Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War.’ She nervously answers questions from the audience at the book signing, including why she wrote under a man’s name.
She and Sidney meet a man to look at an apartment. When the door is opened Juliet flashes back to during the war, her opening the door to her apartment and half of the room has been destroyed by bombs. She carefully ventures into the apartment, with the floor creaking, treating to fall away at a moments notice. Juliet rescues a picture of her with her parents and in much peril, a snow globe paperweight, just as the floor starts to collapse. Sidney spears and grabs her hand, saving her from falling with the floor. We come back to present day and Juliet and Sidney tour the apartment, but Juliet turns it down. Sidney and Juliet walk down the street and talk about her finding a new home, but Juliet is not ready to settle down.
We cut to a nightclub where a big band is playing, and people are dancing, enjoying the night. Mark (Glen Powell) follows a waiter with two glasses and champagne to the wall that Juliet is leaning against. They drink some champagne, and they go out on the dance floor. The couple ends up at Juliet’s apartment, and the landlord catches them kissing at the doorway. The landlord complains that Mark keeps sending Juliet flowers when she doesn’t have any vases to put them in. The landlord hands Juliet her mail and tells her not to do any typing as it’s after ten. Juliet has gotten a letter from a Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman), a letter that will take Juliet on a trip that will have a profound effect on her life.
That is the start of this warm and romantic film that doesn’t try to be more than be comfortable as a favorite sweater. The film doesn’t try to break new ground, and that’s ok because it knows what it is, a good, old-fashioned romance about a woman finally finding her home and her true love. Juliet, played by the engaging and appealing Lily James, goes to the Island of Guernsey, intrigued by a series of letters she gets from Dawsey Adams. Juliet senses that there is a story worth telling about the small book club that was founded during the war. Little does she know that the more time she spends on the Island and with its inhabitants, the more she will fall in love with the place.
Lily James s flawless as the headstrong young woman who wins over the people of Guernsey with her wit and her good nature. James is engaging in the role, entrancing us as her character slowly peels away the story of the book club and what she finds out about the sad tale of Elizabeth. Any time that James is on the screen with Michael Huisman, who plays the pig farmer that wrote the letters that brought Juliet to the Island, the film practically emits sparks due to their chemistry. The film is buoyed by a strong supporting cast, including Tom Courtenay,, the postmaster of the Island, Katherine Parkinson as the slightly strange Isola. Jessica Brown Findlay, plays the tragic Elizabeth who falls in love with the man that will only bring her trouble ,and Penelope Wilson as Amelia, a woman who lost loved ones in the war and is haunted by that loss.
I loved the look of the film, with colorful costumes that take you back to the look of the forties, almost as if the film was shot the old color pictures from that time. I also enjoyed the use of narration when different characters tell Juliet about what happened to Elizabeth and the rest of the book club members during the war.
I recommend making a pot of tea, curling up on the couch with your favorite blanket and take in ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ , an enjoyable romance with a bit of mystery to top it off.
My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst:
1). I Would Pay to See it Again
2). Full Price
3). Bargain Matinee
5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again.
The film is currently on Netflix.