If you’re not one for the intergalactic cataclysms of “Avengers: Infinity War”, then you might find your local multiplex a fairly unwelcoming place this coming week. But, amidst the plethora of showings of, admittedly, one of the best films of the year so far, if you look carefully you might just uncover this cunningly counter-programmed gem of a movie; the next instalment in one of cinema’s longest running and biggest cinematic universes: the slightly rose-tinted World War II nostalgia universe.
In the aftermath of World War II Juliet Ashton (Lily James), a writer receives a letter from a member of a curiously named Guernsey book club. Her curiosity piqued and against the advice of her fiancé and her agent, she travels to the island to meet the book club’s members only to encounter a compelling story of survival under the Nazi occupation.
From the picture postcard trailers, I went in to this expecting a whimsical romantic travelogue filled with quirky characters and oddball anecdotes and while there’s certainly that side to it, there’s also a gently compelling mystery to unravel surrounding one member of the book club whose whereabouts are unknown.
The performances are terrific, with Lilly James and Matthew Goode almost being made for this kind of period drama. It’s Penelope Wilton, though, who delivers a powerfully emotional performance, hinting at the tragic secrets which haunt the islanders, supported by Katherine Parkinson and Tom Courtenay who bring different shades and textures of pathos to the drama. Veteran Director Mike Newell allows the countryside to become a character in and of itself but never at the expense of the human drama, expertly balancing romance, mystery and the delicate unpacking of the trauma inflicted on the tight-knit community by the War.
Quintessential gentle Sunday night TV drama, but on the big canvas of the cinema screen, I found “The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society” utterly beguiling, perhaps in part because one of the children at the heart of the story reminded me a lot of my youngest and I’m a sentimental old goat sometimes. For me, the movie filled a very specific absence that’s been left since the end of the most recent series of “Call The Midwife” ended and I was entranced by its wonderful cast, captivating story and mellow, chocolate-box drama.