A writer forms an unexpected bond with the residents of Guernsey Island in the aftermath of World War II, when she decides to write a book about their experiences during the war.
Where: Odeon Brighton
When: Monday 30th April
Snacks: Macadamia and white chocolate cookies from Subway (#obsessed)
Somewhere, at some point I turned into a little old lady with a penchant for period dramas and particularly, films about books and book clubs. I put off seeing this momentarily because of the title. Honestly, it’s explained in the film but it is terrible and deeply unappealing. Which is a shame because this is a good movie, especially if you love the above things as I do.
It’s 1946 and Juliet Ashton (James) is a fairly successful author on the cusp of an exciting national tour. Her latest book is written under the pen name Izzy Bickerstaff and is a compilation of fun stories about life during WWII. She’s in a relationship with a wealthy American (Glen Powell) and has a dope best friend, her agent Sidney (Matthew Goode). One day she receives a letter from a stranger, Dawsey Adams (Huisman) who happens to have picked up a book Juliet used to own (and has inscribed with her name and previous address).
Somehow the book has found its way to Dawsey by way of his local book club – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (or TGLAPPPS). The society was formed on the hop a few years before the correspondence between Juliet and Dawsey begins. Guernsey at this point is/was occupied by the Germans and life is/was truly miserable for everyone on the island.
The pen pals start to bond (who knew?) and it’s not long before Juliet and Dawsey are exchanging their stories. When Juliet invites herself to Guernsey to meet the group – and potentially write an article about them – she finds herself embroiled in all their lives, for better or worse.
Guernsey (fuck that title) is a soft and pretty period piece with a bite, thankfully. As Juliet unravels the truth about the book club and its members, she learns that things have not been easy as the years have passed by. The war has claimed many loved ones (not to mention Juliet’s own parents) and still has its claws in Elizabeth McKenna (Jessica Brown Findlay), a spirited idealist still being kept in a prisoner of war camp somewhere in Germany.
The film doesn’t shy away from some brutal scenes and this saves it from being too whimsical. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of soft focus and fannying about Guernsey in dynamite frocks, damn you Lily James but it does have a slight edge.
The romantic element is no surprise but it’s fun and photogenic – and sometimes that’s not a bad thing. As for talent, national treasure Penelope Wilton is ace as the prickly (and who can blame her) Amelia Maugery, the matriarch of the group who has lost almost everything to the war.
Katherine Parkinson’s hippy dippy Isola Pribby is also a delight and she lives in my actual dream home. James is a likeable leading lady too and although she’s incredibly wholesome, this did illustrate just how wasted she was in Baby Driver (a film not exactly celebrated for it’s female characterisation).
So I do recommend this nice film which could have just as easily been a BBC drama shown on a Sunday night (not a bad thing). Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to book a solo jaunt to Guernsey. It looks like actual Heaven.