While many period films thrive on their drama (see “Gone with the Wind” and “The Beguiled”), “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” has a little more on its plate. Not only does it combine a daunting backstory in Nazi-occupied Guernsey and a romance that transcends its borders, but it gives us a mostly realistic look at the horror and hope that come from losing those we love the most. If Netflix can bring together this many elements in an original film that fell relatively under the radar, I’m ecstatic to see what they can bring to the table, or the literary society, in their coming features.
Lily James portrays the young author Juliet Ashton, who receives a letter from Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman) of the literary society, who stumbles across an old book Juliet once owned and wants more information about the bookstore she purchased from. Recently contracted to her local newspaper, Juliet makes the decision to write about the society and travels to Guernsey; from there, the rest is history (fictionally speaking, of course). While the plot is relatively simple, it’s the narrative of each member of the society that really speaks for the success of the film. No character, with the exception of Juliet’s now ex-fiance, remains two-dimensional, and for the sake of the film, no stone is left unturned.
The romance between Dawsey and Juliet is expected, but is not the focus of the film; audiences will be asking themselves, “Who is Kit’s father? Where is Elizabeth? Is Dawsey in love with Elizabeth?” and will find each and every one of their answers before the credits roll. While the characters are relatively straight forward, as many are in period dramas, the connection made with viewers is unlike many other films that skip the theatrical release.
The predictable plot, unfortunately, doesn’t leave much to the imagination, and that may be the biggest fault that comes with this release. Serial Netflix-watchers looking for something more than a romantic drama with historical elements aren’t going to find it in this original that caters to a very specific type of viewer. Fans of Nicholas Sparks and “Pride and Prejudice”-esque creations are sure to find their newest love in this literary society, and its adaptability to worldwide audiences is not something to be ignored.
Maybe it won’t be up for an Oscar, but “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” is arguably the best film on Netflix for casual watching right now. For viewers waiting for the next season of their favorite show or who can’t get enough of Peter Kavinsky from “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” I urge you to let Juliet Ashton and Dawsey Adams be your next it couple.