I recently went to the cinema to watch The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pell Pie Society, yes it’s a mouthful!
Me and my friend were the youngest people in the room, and I think it’s due to the time period the film was set in. The film is set in 1946, a young writer called Juliet played by Lily James receives a letter from a pig farmer who lives on the Channel Island of Guernsey. He is part of a book society named after a dreadful pie their local postmaster Eben made out of the only thing they had plenty of on the island… potatos.
The film starts in 1941, with a beautiful shot of a starry night over Guernsey. Four people are stumbling back after enjoying a night of eating roast pork with plenty of home-made gin, the problem with this is that during this time in the Second World War the Germans had occupied the British Channel Islands due to its proximity to Brittany. They had taken over the island, setting curfews and confiscating pigs to feed their own troops. The four are quickly stopped by German soldiers who demand to know why they are meeting together at this time of night. A quick thinking member of the group called Elizabeth McKenna makes up a literary society called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society as their excuse. This is then the start of a book club where it’s five members met to read and take themselves out of the horrors they were facing during the war.
After the war had finished we see Juliet, a writer living in London who receives letters from Dawsey who is a member of the book society, and whom loves her work. Juliet not happy with her writing so far, feels the need to travel to Guernsey and write about this unusual book society hoping to finally write about something meaningful. She leaves her American fiancé Mark, and best friend Sidney in order to hunt down the truth behind the literary society.
When she arrives she meets four of its original members; Dawsey, Isola, Amelia and Eben (the inventor of the potato peel pie). She is then quickly hurled into the story of the missing founder Elizabeth McKenna, trying her best to get the answers she needs to help these people finally begin to feel like the war has ended. On this journey she begins to realise how many stories have intertwined to bring her to Guernsey, and how important a story can be.
The film in all is very good, the story starts of as a lighthearted romance and suddenly turns further into a detective story, as Juliet struggles to find out what happened to Elizabeth. The film jumps between flashbacks, slowly unraveling the truth of what happened and why the society is reluctant to have its story told. I think however, that a little more detail into the occupation of the Channel Islands could have been explored further, so we can really understand the full heartbreak the islanders had to suffer during the war. I didn’t fully know that the Germans occupied our Channel Islands in the first place, but I did appreciate at the beginning of the film them showing archive footage of when the Germans signed a deal and left the islands, it was a really nice touch.
I really appreciated this film, I love seeing the 40s shown as it was such a turbulent time. The romance in the film was really nice, as it didn’t overshadow the most important aspects such as the disappearance of Elizabeth or how much the war took away from countless amounts of people. I often forget when I watch films about the Second World War, the people who had to try to build their lives around heart-break and chaos. I walked out of the cinema which was situated in Piccadilly Circus and still couldn’t fathom what London must have been like during that time, it really made me appreciate how lucky we are!
It made me realise how brave the people who lived through the war were, to be able to still gather with loved ones and appreciate what they did have. Telling stories was a way to escape, a way to still laugh and enjoy their lives. This film reminded me of a quote I love from Doctor Who;
“We’re all stories in the end, just make it a good one.”
I have loved this quote for a long time, mainly because when life get’s a little too much I like to think it’s juts one little part of my story. This film symbolises this quote, these people had lost so much that they needed to lose themselves in other people stories.
I’ve never really understood the importance of words until you see a story like this, and I admit maybe I should have before. I now fully understand how momentous words can be, they can in some cases make or break someone. I really recommend this film, it lifts you up! And the best thing I got out of it, is that it made me want to go and write!