DVD review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

by Toby Woollaston

gurnseyThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society; with a title that long, it was always going to spark curiosity. As cast member Matthew Goode quips in his clipped British accent “Crikey, that’s quite a mouthful”. Add to that the burgeoning career of its star, Lily James, and a handful other recognisable faces, many from Downton Abbey and you’ve got a hit on your hands.  Now, with this week’s DVD release you’ll be able to take Guernsey’s adored literary group and put them on your bookshelf, snuggled between your Downton collection and Auntie Dot’s 101 Uses of the Common Garden Potato.

The film centres on Juliet (Lilly James), a free-spirited writer whose decision to write about the wordily named society, digs up raw memories about one of the Society’s missing members, Elizabeth (Jessica Brown Findlay). With the German occupation still fresh in their minds, the Guernsey locals are reticent towards a bright-eyed Londoner asking questions.  But as the ice melts, love blossoms, and the mystery of Elizabeth’s whereabouts begins to unfold.

Fascinating as Guernsey’s back-story is, Director Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) has elected to keep things very safe.  Despite the seemingly rich work from which this film is based, very few boundaries have been pushed. The result is a complex tale that has been over-seasoned with warm and accessible romantic whimsy; pleasantly untaxing but also frustratingly tame.

The DVD offers four brief bonus features, which give a welcome peek behind the film’s production.  Each is only a few minutes long but offer interviews with the cast and crew, and explores the film’s adaptation from Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrow’s novel. Of special note is a longer featurette which examines the unique history of wartime Guernsey, and despite the brevity, it’s fascinating stuff.  The main feature is encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and there is an optional audio description for the vision impaired and English captions of the hearing impaired.  Its picture is nicely rendered in 1.85:1 letterbox ratio and expresses well the fawning landscapes of Guernsey’s modest 65 square kilometres.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.