The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)


Introduction

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a 2018 historical romantic-drama film directed by Mike Newell and written by Don Roos and Tom Bezucha.

The screenplay is based on the 2008 novel of the same name, written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

The film stars Lily James, Michiel Huisman, Glen Powell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Katherine Parkinson, Matthew Goode, Tom Courtenay and Penelope Wilton.

Set in 1946, the plot follows a London-based writer who exchanges letters with a resident on the island of Guernsey, which had been under German occupation during World War II.

Outline

In 1941, on the island of Guernsey, four friends are stopped by soldiers for breaching curfew during German occupation. To avoid arrest, they say they were returning from a meeting of their book club, hastily named “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”.

Five years later, in January 1946, the author Juliet Ashton is promoting her latest book, written under her pen name Izzy Bickerstaff. She has just been contracted through her publisher Sidney Stark to write stories for The Times Literary Supplement about the benefits of literature. Juliet receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a Guernsey man who has come into possession of her copy of Charles Lamb’s Essays of Elia and who wants to know where to find a bookshop in England to buy another book by the same author. He tells her that he is part of “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”, which meets every Friday night. Juliet sends another book by Lamb and his sister, Tales from Shakespeare, in exchange for more information about the society and how it came into being.

Juliet decides she would like to write about the society and arranges to travel to the island, despite Sidney’s reservations. Her American boyfriend Mark proposes before Juliet embarks on the ferry, and she accepts. Upon arrival at Guernsey, Juliet attends a meeting of the society where she is treated as a celebrity by the members: Dawsey Adams, Amelia Maugery, Isola Pribbey, Eben Ramsey, and Eben’s young grandson, Eli. Juliet is told that Elizabeth, the founding member, is overseas. Her daughter Kit is being looked after by Dawsey, and calls him “dad”. Juliet asks permission to write an article about the Society, but Amelia reacts negatively to the idea.

Instead of returning home as planned, Juliet remains in Guernsey to conduct research, telling the group that she is writing about the German occupation. Over the following days, she learns that Elizabeth had been arrested during the occupation and sent to Germany, but that her friends are still hoping she will return. Juliet asks Mark, who is in the armed forces, to try to locate Elizabeth. Juliet’s landlady tells her that Elizabeth was no saint, hinting that she had been having sex with the occupying German forces in exchange for luxuries. Juliet asks Dawsey about the story, and he explains that he is not actually Kit’s father. Her real father was Christian Hellmann, a German doctor who had worked with Elizabeth at the local hospital. Hellmann had been sent back to Germany, and died when his ship was sunk.

Mark arrives in Guernsey, and criticises Juliet for not wearing her engagement ring. He brings information about Elizabeth, and Juliet relays to the society the news that Elizabeth had been sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. There, she was shot and killed trying to protect a fellow prisoner. Juliet and Mark return to London but Juliet is unable to settle back into her previous life. She breaks up with Mark and starts to write about the society. When her manuscript is finished, she gives a copy to Sidney and posts another to the society. Dawsey reads her covering letter out loud to the group and realises that Juliet has broken up with Mark. He decides to go to her, and departs for London. At the same time, Juliet arranges to return to Guernsey. She is just embarking on the ferry when she notices Dawsey on the wharf, and the two reunite. Dawsey is about to ask Juliet to marry him when she interrupts to ask him the same thing. He accepts.

Some time later, Dawsey reads to Kit from Tales from Shakespeare with Juliet next to him, both Dawsey and Juliet wearing wedding rings. As the credits roll, the Society hold another meeting off-screen, including Sidney, exchanging excerpts from books and discussion.

Cast

  • Lily James as Juliet Ashton.
  • Michiel Huisman as Dawsey Adams.
  • Glen Powell as Mark Reynolds.
  • Jessica Brown Findlay as Elizabeth McKenna.
  • Katherine Parkinson as Isola Pribby.
  • Matthew Goode as Sidney Stark.
  • Tom Courtenay as Eben Ramsey.
  • Penelope Wilton as Amelia Maugery.
  • Bronagh Gallagher as Charlotte Stimple.
  • Clive Merrison as Mr. Gilbert.
  • Bernice Stegers as Mrs. Burns.
  • Andy Gathergood as Eddie Meares.

Trivia

  • In 2010, development began on a film adaptation based on Shaffer’s novel.
  • Initially, Kate Winslet was announced as the lead, with Kenneth Branagh attached to direct. However, both dropped out in February 2013.
  • In October 2016, James signed on for the lead role, with Newell set to direct.
  • The film entered pre-production in January 2017, with principal photography taking place across England from 23 March to 15 May 2017.
    • Principal photography began in March 2017 in North Devon.
    • The port and village of Clovelly in North Devon represented Saint Peter Port, Guernsey, and many other locations in the same area were used for outdoor shots representing Guernsey as imagined in 1946.
    • Exterior shots were filmed at Princes Wharf, Bristol, to represent Weymouth Docks in 1946.
    • For the London portion of the shoot, photography took place on Sicilian Avenue in London. Scenes were also shot at the House of Detention in Sans Walk, Clerkenwell and in the foyer of Senate House, London.
    • Studio work was completed at Ealing Studios.
    • Filming wrapped in May 2017, with the first official images of the film released that month.
  • The film grossed $15.7 million worldwide and received generally positive reviews from critics.
  • It was distributed in other international areas by Netflix on 10 August 2018 as an original film.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Mike Newell.
  • Producer(s): Paula Mazur, Mitchell Kaplan, Graham Broadbent, and Peter Czernin.
  • Writer(s): Kevin Hood, Don Roos, and Tom Bezucha.
  • Music: Alexandra Harwood.
  • Cinematography: Zac Nicholson.
  • Editor(s): Paul Tothill.
  • Production: Blueprint Pictures and Mazur/Kaplan Company.
  • Distributor(s): StudioCanal.
  • Release Date: 09 April 2018 (London), 20 April 2018 (UK general release), and 13 June 2018 (France).
  • Running time: 124 minutes.
  • Country: UK and France.
  • Language: English and German.

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