A shameless pleasure, this warm adaptation by Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) of the book of the same name by Mary Ann Shaffer hits all the right notes.
When I read the book, its inventiveness stood out to me as it is constructed only of letters. It explores the German occupation of the British island of Guernsey, in the English Channel only a few miles from the French coast, for five years in World War 2. Under the terrible privations of the occupation, a raggle-taggle group meet, at first to share a contraband roast pig and then to prove the truth of their assertion when apprehended on their way home, that they belong to a literary society.
One member, pig farmer Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman) corresponds with author Juliet Ashton (Lily James) when he finds her name and address inscribed in the flyleaf of one of the few books on the island. Intrigued by his stories of the Society, she leaves behind slick and wealthy boyfriend Markham Reynolds (Glen Powell) to track the members down after the war has ended. What she finds is a close-knit community still scarred by the war and a mystery around the disappearance of Elizabeth (Jessica Brown Findlay), the rebellious heart of the group.
This is essentially a love story and it is told with restraint and imbued with sparkling characters. Leads James and Huisman are convincing and a pleasure to watch but it is the Society members – Penelope Wilton as grieving Amelia, Katherine Parkinson as loner Isola Pribby and Tom Courtney as Ebon Ramsey – who provide the soul and spirit. Even the small parts are well drawn – publisher Sidney (Matthew Goode), pious Charlotte (Bronagh Gallagher) and youngsters Eli (Kit Connor) and Kit (Florence Keen).
The era and community of Guernsey are convincingly portrayed and you can clearly see why this little place, with its oddities and simplicity, could represent the heart of a people.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.