“Do you suppose it’s possible for us to belong to someone before we’ve met them? If so, I belong to you or you to me, or me simply to the spirit I found among you in Guernsey. […] And hope that if books do have the power to bring people together, this one may work its magic.”
Yes, yes I do suppose – and that’s certainly the case with a film as remarkably captivating as this one. If you know anything about me, I hope it’s how much I adore a story of triumph and adventure cobbled with a romance that’s to be treasured for all eternity. I’m a complete sap, that’s a given, but The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is the first period-drama film I’ve ardently adored since Jane Austen adaptations. And that seems oddly fitting because the film’s very own hero/writer is a fan of the beloved Miss Austen, too. Win win. The film takes us on the kind of enamoring adventure of finding oneself through another’s story, and isn’t that how we all find inspiration every now and then? The stories we hear, the people we meet, and the journeys we embark on. The film adaptation of Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrow’s novel of the same title is an exquisite masterpiece filled with a stunning cast and pleasant twists to the story’s original format. The riveting cinematography, astounding performances, and thought-provoking themes have given us something truly great to hold onto.
P.S. let’s just go ahead and declare the summer of 2018, the summer of Lily James, because she’s doing it all, captivating our hearts one wanderlust evoking movie after another. (The first I’m referring to is Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again if that wasn’t obvious.)
James is the film’s evident star allowing viewers to identify with her character Juliet’s intricate desires in a way so potently impressive, there’s not a single moment where her eyes aren’t speaking to the audience. In the novel, the story is told in the form of ongoing letters, back and forth, but because such a rare form wouldn’t work in the cinematic verse, the film diverts from it by giving us meetings early on interwoven with uncertainties as opposed to the full-fledged support that’s presented in the novel. However, in both versions, the Society’s impact on Juliet is transparent from the very beginning — they’ve changed her, inspired her, and healed her in ways she didn’t believe possible, and that’s the kind of compelling story I’m always here for. The kind of story that reminds us of the fact that if we choose to follow our instincts, if we choose to continue telling stories, happiness can be found in even the darkest times. (The film may take place post World War II, but times are still trying in every way for the Islanders.) Where there’s desire and wonder, a balance between the heart and mind, stillness and simplicity, there’s great happiness waiting to be uncovered. And that’s what the film has done, it’s reminded us of the significance in chasing curiosity — the universal truth that when we pay close attention, life does in fact, imitate art. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is the year’s most enduring film — something I’m certain we’ll all be watching more than once. If you’ve ever wanted to join a book club, fair warning, the desire will only be escalated further. I for one have already got colossal heart eyes set on visiting the real Guernsey soon.
There’s a great abundance to be said about the film’s heroine, but it’s her connection with the people she meets that’s left me utterly floored and wishing this was made into a mini-series instead – two hours just isn’t enough to tell a story of this caliber. The adoring and carefree spirit of the Society’s founder Elizabeth McKenna inspires heroine Juliet Ashton to find herself in a way she did not know she needed. It allows her to look passed the uninspired moments of finding herself and into the life of a woman who had a great to deal to lose. It inspires her to seek life and importance away from hers in the eyes of a brave little girl whose loss is more profound than she could even understand. The connection built between all the characters, and even Elizabeth in her absence is something close to otherworldly, it’s similar I’d say, to the connections we find in fictional, or in some cases, even real heroines we don’t personally know. And these types of indescribable longings are the types of story-telling I resonate most with because I’m constantly searching for the stories that help me believe that choosing the life we want to live is worthwhile. It’s bizarre to describe feeling the spirit of a place to someone who doesn’t understand it, they look at you funny, believe that it’s just you, sappy, cliché-adoring writer who’s head is often in the clouds, but it’s stories like this that allow me, and presumably many others, to understand that we aren’t alone. It’s the greatest feeling in the world to be in a place that you feel connected to. It’s the greatest feeling to be in a place that though isn’t your actual home, you’ve never felt more at peace in. And for a story like this to describe that feeling through a writer like Juliet? Yes please with all the books on top. We are who we are because of those who’ve come before us and those who’ll come after us. We are who we are because of the paths we choose to take and the love we spread with all those who cross our path.
And then there’s the love story. In the voice of Jane Bennet: “Yes, a thousand times yes!” The initial link between Dawsey and Juliet is the reason so many of us are such hopeless romantics. It’s the spark between two people who’ve just met that allows them to feel as though they’ve known one another their whole lives. It’s as though without ever realizing, they’ve searched for each other in every soul they’ve met. And it’s the very reason Juliet hopes in the end that the letters would work their magic once more in uniting the two if they’re meant to be. And it does, spoiler alert obviously. A+ casting choice on Michiel Huisman and Lily James because the superb chemistry brought the gorgeous love story to life in a way that’s every fangirl’s dream — the longing glances and delicate hand touches, but most importantly the profound familiarity in their souls that brought indescribable serenity in each other’s presence. It lit up the screen almost effortlessly. It’s the darling friendship between Isola and Juliet that reminded me so much of the eldest Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice. And the unique, intricate friendship between Matthew Goode’s Sidney and Juliet — the closest thing to family she had away from Guernsey. It’s in the bonds fortified within the Society members that even post war they’ve vowed to protect one another, care for one another, and love one another through everything because the safety and spirit they’ve found in their accidental book club is that which they’d spend their whole lives searching for if it hadn’t been discovered.
It’s truly an inspiring masterpiece that’ll leave you wanting more. Be sure to listen to the latest episode of Marvelous Geeks Podcast as I breakdown and discuss the film in further detail along with a plethora of flailing.
Gissane (pronounced Geese-enny) or, as people often call her, "Goose," is a Christ fan above all and a romance enthusiast who's taken her Master's degree in English and love for essays into writing lengthy analyses about pop culture.
She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Marvelous Geeks Media and the co-host of Lady Geeks' Society Podcast. She drinks too much coffee, wants to live in a forest, and cries a lot because of her favorite characters. She's a member of The Cherry Picks and can also be found writing features for Looper.