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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a period drama/romance set in 1946 Great Britain. Based on the best-selling novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, the story follows a young London writer named Juliet Ashton (Lily James) to Guernsey Island (in the English Channel just off the coast of Normandy), which was occupied by Nazi forces throughout World War II. The movie dramatizes the extraordinary plight of the Guernsey citizens and their resilience during the war and its aftermath. Juliet's experiences there both surprise and profoundly impact her. Flashbacks include brief scenes of wartime action, menacing Nazi officials, a city in ruins, a body, a hospital ward, and a Nazi march. A short bar fight occurs as the story unfolds. Characters drink in multiple scenes; one man is drunk, and another smokes cigarettes. Language includes "bastard," "ass," and "slut." Though there are references to war's cruelties and sad events, the movie offers a heartfelt glimpse into one of history's heartrending events.
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-"She's only four. how could she understand that?!" -"I'm older than time, and I still don't understand"
What's the story?
In the midst of a blossoming career as a novelist and a romance with a charming, rich American, Juliet Ashton (Lily James) embarks on a pen-pal relationship with one of the members of THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY. Despite being part of the British Isles, the Island of Guernsey was occupied by the Nazis throughout World War II. The war is over. The intruders are gone. The Literary and Potato Peel Society is still thriving. Juliet is more than intrigued. With the approval of her publisher and the hopes that she may be able to write an article about the group with its puzzling name and origins, Juliet sets off for a short visit. Just as she imagined, Guernsey is a magical place. The society's members are highly original, with moving stories to tell and secrets that must be uncovered. Most compelling is a little girl, her missing mother, and a tale of formidable resistance. What started as a short visit becomes a life-affecting odyssey that changes Juliet forever.
Is it any good?
What might be seen by some as super sweet and predictable is leavened by the underlying pathos of wartime, an alluring mystery, and stunning photography. The super sweetness and the predictability, as a matter of fact, come directly from the novel upon which the film is based, so the creative team can't be faulted for that. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society reunites several members of the Downton Abbey cast, with Lily James (seemingly the breakout star of that series, with multiple starring roles in big studio movies) solid in the role, charming the audience with her smarts and girl-next-door appeal. Featured characters are uniformly first-rate, with the reliable Tom Courtenay and Penelope Wilton terrific as always. Mike Newell, notable for other fine period films (e.g., Great Expectations, Enchanted April), delivers both the emotional goods and the visuals. Though the movie was not filmed on Guernsey Island, the creative team brings the island to life using other British locations. Recommended for those who don't mind a little sugar along with their drama.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how movies can inform audiences as well as entertain them. Did you know about the German occupation of the Island of Guernsey? Were you surprised to learn that a British island had been invaded? Where would you go to find out more about these World War II events?
Juliet was tempted to publish the story of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. How did the members of the society feel about public exposure? Did you agree with her final decision? Why or why not? Given today's climate of tell-all books and social media, what is your attitude about privacy? When do you think the "right to know" supersedes privacy?
Find Guernsey Island on a map. Does the island's proximity to France help you understand how and why the Germans invaded it? Since most of us cannot travel to such places, movies are a source of what is termed "armchair travel." What special geographical locations have you "visited" in the movie theater?
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