The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (4 stars)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Lily James stars in a beguiling and affecting romantic drama, set during World War II and its aftermath

Do not be put off by the terribly twee, tongue-twisting title (which will offer a challenge for cinema marquees across the land). This adaptation of Mary Ann Shaffer's posthumously published 2008 bestseller (completed by her niece Annie Barrows) is a very attractive, accomplished and surprisingly pleasing dish of heartwarming romance, mystery and moving historical drama, directed by the dab hand of Mike Newell and played out by a cracking ensemble.

Lily James, brimming with charm and quite adorable in her divine period costumes, stars as successful writer Juliet Ashton, who in post-World War II London is captivated by a letter from a Guernsey farmer, a reader with an unusual request on behalf of his eccentrically monikered book club. He is Dawsey and is played by the irresistibly hot Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones) but she has no way of knowing that as she continues to correspond with him. Juliet eventually decides to satisfy her curiosity and visit Guernsey to meet the peculiar society's members, who are collectively a bundle of surprises, secrets and rare fellowship. Among them are the matriarchal Amelia (Penelope Wilton), doddery postmaster Eben (Tom Courtenay) and endearingly dippy Isola (Katherine Parkinson), who produces the homemade gin that fuels their lively gatherings.

On her journey of discovery, Juliet, mourning her own wartime losses, learns about their lives of deprivation, danger and tragedy under the German occupation of the island, the story behind the society's formation, and a great deal about the intriguingly absent but inspirational leader of the group, Elizabeth (another fragrant Downton Abbey alumna, Jessica Brown Findlay). Newell puts the pieces of the story together with clarity in a film that moves back and forth between 1941 and 1946, sustains a good pace and keeps you wondering, guessing and hoping how it's all going to turn out. It's beguiling and affecting, with warmth and good humour as it celebrates friendship, courage, devotion and the joys of reading too.

General release from Fri 20 Apr.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

  • 4 stars
  • 2018
  • UK
  • 2h 4min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Mike Newell
  • Cast: Lily James, Michiel Huisman, Jessica Brown Findlay
  • UK release: 20 April 2018

Juliet (James) is a successful writer in post-WWII London who discovers the eponymous book club, and learns about their lives under the German occupation of the island. Don’t let the twee title put you off, as it’s a beguiling and affecting celebration of friendship, courage and the joys of reading, full of warmth and…