“That’s quite a mouthful.”
Everything about The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society is, incontestably, sorely overlong. The title itself is an abomination. Can you imagine if this had played in theaters instead of streaming on Netflix, and you had to try to spout it all out while ordering a ticket? It doesn’t help that the film is also about 20 minutes too long, and that its encouraging message becomes lulled to sleep by a glacial picture that doesn’t know how to edit itself with energy. The Guernsey Literary isn’t a bad movie, nor is it memorably good, which means that it most definitely goes in one ear and right out the other.
Set in 1946 and fresh off the Allied defeat of the Axis powers in World War II, the successful author Juliet Ashton (Lily James), writing under the pseudonym Izzy Bickerstaff, is busy doing a promotional tour of her latest book. By her side is longtime boyfriend turned fiancé Mark (Glen Powell), as well as her publisher Sidney Stark (Matthew Goode). Juliet seems bored with the book readings and the crowd Q&A’s, and it has a little to do with letters she receives from a man named Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman) who lives on the island of Guernsey. He’s a member of the titular society, and it peaks Juliet’s interest. She can’t help but to travel to the English Channel in hopes of retrieving a story.
While it’s done with taste and has moments of good fun, Mike Newell’s The Guernsey Literary drowns in melodrama that never really quite builds to something worth all of the investigatory effort. Lily James and her boundless charm gets stuck playing a character who mostly asks questions, and this creates a wall between Juliet’s drive and the audience’s understanding of her pursuit. Throw in Dawsey as an addition that makes a love triangle – despite their complete lack of character chemistry – and the unexplored depths of each society member, and the result turns into a film that’s too light and fluffy to stand up against the morbid drama it so ardently pursues.
The script is beleaguered by plot elements that only add dead weight while the main characters are left to simmer on the back-burner, lacking the fire to ever really boil with honest, convincing emotion. It is a handsome film though, full of beautiful faces and lush locales. However, as the movie began to bore me and I fell into the gravest sin of the Netflix experience, I found myself pausing the picture over and over again. Then I turned the color ratio on my TV down to complete Black & White, and I realized that this movie was a classical period piece which mistakenly tried to color itself with the heat of a false romance. Had it been B&W and stuck to drama, and had it been more confident in its approach, The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society could have been something worth savoring. Instead, we merely stomach it.
“It’s not my story to tell.”
Rating: 2.5 out of 5