THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL SOCIETY (2018 film)

THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL SOCIETY - 2018
Director: Mike Newell.
Cast: Lily James / Jessica Brown Findlay / Matthew Goode / Tom Courtenay / Glen Powell / Michiel Huisman.
Score: Alexandra Harwood.
Cinematography: Zac Nicholson.
Content Advisory: PG13 for violence and threat.
Source: Rented.

In the aftermath of World War II, a writer forms an unexpected bond with the residents of Guernsey Island when she decides to write a book about their experiences during the war. 



I'm in the minority when it comes to this movie, and I really wish I'd enjoyed it more. It sounded like such a powerful historical drama.



I did adore the cinematography. There are some majestic shots - particularly the first scene of the film where the society's members are silhouetted against the midnight blue sky -  and the landscape of the island is constantly showcased in all its stunning glory. It's a haunted, but whimsical setting.

The costumes are pleasant, too. The makeup accentuates the general aesthetic, the lighting is romantic, and the sets are homely. To put it simply: the film is lovely to look at. 




The writing is disappointing. I like that there's this heartbreaking main mystery and lots of layers to it, but at the same time, the pacing drags. This upsets the mystery aspect and the emotional connection, and takes away the majority of the excitement and tension. It doesn't help that the story is muddled, either. For a few of the movie's initial scenes I was convinced that Juliet and Mark's relationship was part of a flashback, and although that could've just been my own nearsightedness, the whole tone and character mood seemed to suggest it was a flashback - not present day. When scenes like this aren't well orchestrated and when their relationship with the previous scenes aren't clearly defined, then that frustrates me. It's details like this that niggle at the plot until it unravels.

The story also diverges into a number of poorly thought out avenues. Some of these details and incidents don't even tie to the main plot, some of the characters and incidents aren't even necessary, and as a result this messes with the main narrative. I found it distracting. Because there's a lot going on and because the order isn't straightforward, it's disorientating, too.




Unpopular opinion: Lily James isn't a good actress. Her facial expressions are too affected, and her acting is shallow and self-involved. Even though her character is one of the weakest, a strong actress could've made something of it. James didn't. Thus, she ruined most of the movie for me.

The rest of the cast are much stronger. Penelope Wilton is excellent, and Jessica Brown Findlay is breathtaking whenever she's on screen. Their characters are the best well written, too, and so is Katherine Parkinson's Isola; she lights up the screen whenever she appears, but again, that's not often. I wish that (somehow) these three ladies could have been the leads. Or maybe the rest could've just been recast...

Another big problem with this movie is the lack of chemistry between the cast. Everyone and everything suffers from it, but none more so than James and Huisman's romance, which feels forced, awkward, and unconvincing from the very first hint of a relationship. I never shipped them - it never felt like the right thing to do. When they kiss at the very end of the film, it looks physically painful. It's torture to watch, even if it wasn't to act.

Every relationship suffers because of the lack of chemistry. The only dynamic that actually feels real and the one that has the most emotional impact, is the relationship between Wilton and Findlay's characters. Unfortunately, they have very few scenes together.




While sensitively written and beautifully filmed, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society suffers from a muddled plot and a lack of cast chemistry. 

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