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Sunday 6 May 2018

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Film Review

Today, on this glorious bank holiday, I look back on the film  I saw recently which is based on the book which I covered HERE.

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - The Film

It's a sweet enough film with a strong cast.
It's well put together and in my view the film's high point is the intro featurette which provides some background history to the film's story, which can be seen in this Telegraph review HERE (be warned, it takes an age to load!). 

The Guernsey Girl in me was mindful that the film is based on a work of fiction which lacks authenticity and has no strong local foundation.  The film people could have addressed some of the book's weaknesses, but mostly chose not to.

The Location

The film wasn't shot in Guernsey, I guess due to budget and logistical constraints.  
However, the film bods have done a good job finding locations in Cornwall and Devon which to the untrained eye could pass as island locations.

The Town and Harbour

 They found a hilly town resembling our St Peter Port, seen above.

And their streets look similar to ours, like  our High Street above.

They found a harbour which looks plausible as the 1940s town harbour as it looks very similar to today's harbour in neighbouring Sark.

The Landscape

The scapes chosen pass Pout muster (local coastline shown here) though surely local panoramic footage could have been used!

The Architecture

Some of the farmhouses used look similar to Guernsey's, shown here.

Scream Outs - 10 things that could have been done better.

# 1. Brick

We don't have brick farmhouses (like Dawsey's).
Our farmhouses are built of the local granite.

Brick chimneys and the odd repair or wall topping can be found, but a brick farmhouse?  No !!!

# 2.  Names

Not one islander in the film had a Guernsey surname, but perhaps Maugery was the author's attempt at Mauger.

# 3.  A Guernsey farmer called Dawsey!


#4.  The local's accents.

Not one character spoke with a Guernsey accent.

# 5.  No patois.

I heard no french patois spoken; it  could have been piped in as background conversation but was nowhere to be heard.  Oh, apart from just one scene when two characters used  "a la perchoine" as their farewell.  And you are all familiar with that sign-off, eh?!

Guernsey French.

# 6. No Guernisms

Oh I have a field day here!
There was no attempt to use some of our Guernisms, like "eh",  which is used at the end of most sentences and "is it" used to question any statement so it's mostly used out of context.  They're our trademark.  They're what my English relatives were spellbound (amused) by,  for heaven's sake!  "Chirrie" wasn't used either, which is our cherio.

The authors missed this.  Lacking in on-the-ground research, they had no knowledge of how we speak.  But the UK filmmakers missed the opportunity to address this.  The result is that the film sounds like it's set in England!
Even if the actors couldn't hack the local accent (remember Bergerac?!), including a few Guernisms would have helped to legitimise the film.

# 7.  The harbour's on the wrong side!

Sailing into St Peter Port from an English port, the island would appear on the starboard side of the ship and not the port side as shown in the film.

If Guernsey were on the left, the ship would be sailing through rocky sea, that's why our harbour is where it is!

# 8.  Cutesy bridges

We don't have bridges per se (it's complicated) yet one appeared pointedly in at least two scenes.

This is our bridge.  It was built by the lord of the manor to allow his son to go to school without walking across the road.  Nuff said.

# 9.  The book club

I've never heard of there being a book club on the island during the occupation, but the book is fiction after all.
However, I do know on v. good authority that locals huddled together after curfew  to listen to the BBC World Service on illegal crystal radio sets.  The filmmakers could have tweaked the story in that direction and made the story more plausible, eh.

#10.  Pigs!

And locals WERE allowed to keep pigs!  Though we were supposed to sell some to the occupying forces.

We kept our pretty cows too (you're welcome, Terri!)

I accept the book and film are fiction and flawed and thus not really about Guernsey.  But with a little effort the film could have been authentically better.  They missed many opportunities.
So the film ends up being a film with English people in an English location, but with occupying soldiers. Weird!
Don't get me wrong, the film is poignant and well worth a visit.

The Telegraph has been quite busy writing about the island lately,  HEREHERE  AND HERE

Why don't you come to Guernsey, see it for yourself.  Discover our beautiful island, learn about our history and hey, we can even meet for coffee and a crab sandwich!

A la perchoine!


  1. I have just finished reading the book you recommended about Guernsey Au revoir Sarnia Chérie by R. Blicq. Not romantic like the book on which the movie is based but very touching. Interestingly, I am of French background, (Brittany)and live in Winnipeg which is where the Blicq family ended up in 1942! Now I want to visit Guernsey!

    1. Hi, it's great to hear from you. We have Blicqs here, as you've discovered from the book! We have a Route des Blicqs too, your own road!! Guernsey would love to welcome you to its shores.
      Now here's the thing, my Sarnia was different book, I haven't read your book, but I WILL! I googled the author and found some of his poetry of the island too. Thanks so much for your recommendation.
      BTW, I've recently found and been in touch with relatives in Canada.
      This has been lovely, A. Hope you pop by again soon, x.

  2. I'm ready to come visit! Oh how I wish I could!!!
    It's too bad they didn't take of these seemingly easy to address issues. I did enjoy the film trailer and will look forward to seeing it when it makes it's way here. A few years ago there was a film that supposedly was set in Orlando and I had many of the same reactions. They shot it elsewhere and the landscape was all wrong. We don't have hills, lush landscape nor the type of houses and neighborhoods that were in the film, eh!
    Thanks for sharing my sweet friend!

    1. And I (and your No. 1 fan) are ready for you, lovely lady!
      We Skyped some Boston rellies yesterday and having really loved the book they are itching to see the film. They asked who was acting in it. Half of Downton, was my reply. SIL liked that, she's a big Downton fan!
      Oh my friend, how you must have wanted to scream when you watched the Orlando film. We need to form a support group to help those in distress after watching films purportedly set on their home turf!
      Fun chatting to you as always, my Orlandian lovely, hugs x

  3. I loved the book but will be giving the film a miss...


    1. Hi Vronni. The film is sweet but we are rather spoilt for good films right now eh.
      TP has just finished reading the book a second time and he really enjoyed it this time round. We Skyped some American family last night and they absolutely loved the book!
      Hope you're doing well and enjoying our sunny weather. I'm missing your pretty face and lovely outfits on my screen 😢.
      Hugs, x

  4. I see where you are coming from, PP and you are so right! Such a shame that they missed some opportunities to make the film more authentic. I know that I will feel the same if I have a chance to see the film and I'm not even a 'Guernsey girl'. Looking at your list, I think you did more research than the people who made the film...haha.

    1. Oh come come, what's not Guernsey Girl about YOU, DUCHESSE? Yes, such a shame, my hygienist said the same today ... no accents, no French, And oh, she had something to say about the brick farmhouse too!! And she's not a Guernsey Girl !
      Happy weekend hugs, x.

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