When I first started work in a legal role, I was less than poorly paid. So much so I sold my bike to fund a holiday. Even then the best we could manage was a trip to the Channel Islands, specifically Guernsey. The next year with slightly greater wealth, we took on Jersey. We lived on strawberries, tomatoes, sunshine and walking. Oh and a bottle of Blue Nun. Warm. That wasn’t a highlight.
One aspect that has stayed with me, was a book we found – ‘Jersey Under The Jackboot’ – about the Channel Islands’ experiences of being occupied from 1941 to 1945. We visited an underground facility – a hospital I think – built by Russian prisoners, effectively slaves. It was a piece of history that had passed me by. Within those awful details of starvation and tyranny, two things stood out: the resentment felt by many Islanders about being abandoned by the British forces and then not being immediately freed while the Allied troops moved across Europe following D Day (this a strategic decision), and the sense amongst many Germans that they, too, were, in effect prisoners, especially after D Day.
These themes play a small part in the film we saw last week – The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society – based on a book of the same name.
If it is a relatively gentle exploration of the particular horrors of that period (thus sanitising the more appalling aspects of that time) and if this is an attempt to make a film that feels like it wants to be an exemplar for strong women working against the patriarchy (which I’m not against, only this really wasn’t the obvious vehicle for it and at times the characters reactions did rather stretch credibility as a result) then those are minor gripes that shouldn’t detract from a strong moving story, well-told and superbly acted.
The action follows the fortunes of this eponymous society, formed because such clubs were one way for the locals to be permitted to meet up. The founder Elizabeth (Jessica Brown Findlay) is missing and her absence is the reason why Juliet Aston (Lily James) cannot initially persuade the remaining members to have their story told. Juliet’s struggles to uncover a difficult truth is at the centre of the film, alongside her own personal journey of discovery. Loss, in all its human forms, anchors this film. There’s a nice balance here, too with good Germans and bad Brits although the secondary characters are a trifle cliched.
If you want a decent evening away from Gogglebox and leftover fish pie, then this is for you. And the acting, especially Matthew Goode as Juliet’s much put upon publisher and Tom Courtney and Penelope Wilton as members of the society, is excellent.
PS for my followers who express concern if I fail to mention ice cream we gave the Gelateria opposite the Picturehouse a whirl. Price wise it was better than the cinema whose pricings make the start up capital needed for a space programmes appear within reach of your average butchers boy, but sadly my Madagascan vanilla had some background notes that reminder one of a proprietory drain cleaner, though oddly it was no less edible for all that. Perhaps that speaks to my tastes more than the gelato. I am informed that the caramel chocolate offered no rodding through connotations.