The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018) from Blueprint Pictures
Rated TV-14. Drama, Historical, Romance, War

My thoughts: “You have to write about them… This is your story to tell, as sure as I’m sitting here. And you will not be right until you do.”

Every writer needs to be inspired. In the aftermath of World War II, Juliet, a writer in London, follows the tug of inspiration to visit a hodgepodge of book club members on the island of Guernsey.

And here we have a lovely and compelling story about the blessing of books in the midst of horror, and finding people with whom one belongs. Though it didn’t captivate me at every moment, this is one of those rare instances when I like a film better than the novel it’s based on.

Granted, for me, a story told entirely through characters’ written correspondence does not work in a novel’s favor. While it has its creative points, that type of (rather choppy) storytelling tends to make me feel removed from a story, as if I’m reading bits “about” what’s happening and never get to step into the story itself and experience it right along with the characters.

The screen brings these people to life in a different way, making them more accessible. I couldn’t be so indifferent to Juliet here as I was when I read about her. This story truly benefits from giving its audience a chance to look into The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society members’ eyes, and having the music there to enhance certain images is a notable advantage.

I enjoyed seeing the vitality of book discussions, the illustration of what literature, and the sharing of literature, does for us. Plus, being a writer myself, I’m partial to books and movies about writers. I’ll admit I cried while watching Juliet truly go to work toward the end (well, maybe I cried through most of the last fifth of the film or so), and the opening of the closing credits is just brilliant.

I also got a kick out of seeing the nice handful of actors from Downton Abbey, but that’s beside the point.

My corresponding reading: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

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Love Comes Softly (2003)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Love Comes Softly (2003) from Hallmark Entertainment
Rated TV-PG. Drama, Historical, Romance, Family Film

1/2

Description (from the film case): Based on Janette Oke’s best-selling book series, and directed by Michael Landon Jr., Love Comes Softly is inspired storytelling for the whole family. Marty and Aaron Claridge (Katherine Heigl and Oliver Macready) travel west in search of new opportunity. But when tragedy strikes and Marty is suddenly widowed, the young woman must face the rugged terrain, bleak weather, and life among strangers—alone. That is until a handsome widower named Clark Davis (Dale Midkiff) suggests a platonic “marriage of convenience” until Marty can return home. As the months pass, though, Marty and Clark discover an unexpected new love where there was once only loss.

My thoughts: The first and strongest movie of this series. The acting isn’t always the best, but the story holds its own. It’s wholesome and a good reflection of the much-loved novel it’s based on. There’s a relevant faith thread, of course, as Clark is a man of faith, but he doesn’t go spouting scriptures or shouting “hallelujah” all through the movie or anything. 😀 Faith is an unpretentious, natural part of his character, and it’s thus woven naturally into the story.

Now, the seven related movies that follow this one go gradually downhill in some ways, and not because the stories stray further and further away from the original novels (which is kind of a pity but doesn’t bother me so much because they’re movies, not books.) I think the overall quality goes down, in large part due to the virtually never-ending music that plays through the background of most (or all?) of them, sometimes at an excessive volume. An all too obvious attempt to push the emotion, and I have to tune the music out as much as possible to focus on the characters and enjoy the movies for what they are.

Fortunately, that’s not a problem with the first movie. And if you’re like me, you may want to go on and watch the following seven anyway, if you appreciate family-friendly, life-affirming flicks.

My corresponding reading: Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke.

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The Chosen (1981)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Chosen (1981) from Chosen Film Company
Rated PG. (Contains some disturbing Holocaust footage.) Drama, Faith Theme, Historical

Description (from the film case): Set in 1940s Brooklyn, The Chosen is the story of two teenage boys who become best friends despite huge differences in their upbringing. Danny (Robby Benson) is the son of an orthodox Hasidic Rabbi (Rod Steiger). Reuven (Barry Miller) comes from a progressive Jewish family whose father (Maximilian Schell) stands at the forefront of the battle for Israeli statehood. Danny’s every moment is devoted to religious study, while Reuven plays jazz piano and is intensely interested in changing the world around him. Their family differences soon force both to make difficult choices.

My thoughts: A film based on one of my all-time favorite books.

Although politics are a passionate part of the story, I don’t like it for the politics. (You know, sometimes I almost hate to use the word, for its connotations. It can be easy to minimize or brush off a complex and crucial human issue by saying it’s “just politics.”)

Anyhow. I like this story for the way it portrays how there are differences within groups, behind the broad labels. “I thought you people only studied Talmud.” You people. One Jewish young man speaking to another.

I like this story for its reflection of fathers and sons. Of friendship. “It is not easy to be a friend.” Especially when your friend is someone you don’t understand.

Reuven has an appropriate level of understatement, Danny has an appropriate level of strangeness. Now, what hit me as the most powerful scene in the book didn’t need as severe a close-up as the film generously gives it. But it still has its own power onscreen, and I can otherwise forgive the moment’s over-generosity for being a product of 1980s filmmaking.

A compelling coming of age story indeed.

My corresponding reading: The Chosen by Chaim Potok.

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I’m not a super-fan of the trailer, but, hey. Maybe it’s also “1980s forgivable.” 🙂

 

The Book Thief (2013)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Book Thief (2013) from Twentieth Century Fox
Rated PG-13. 
Drama, Historical, War
My rating: ★★★1/2

Description (from the film case): Based on the beloved best-selling book comes an “extremely moving” (Leonard Maltin, Indiewire) story of a girl who transforms the lives of those around her during World War II, Germany. When her mother can no longer care for her, Liesel (Sophie Nélisse) is adopted by a German couple (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson.) Although she arrives illiterate, Liesel is encouraged to learn to read by her adoptive father. When the couple then takes in Max (Ben Schnetzer), a Jew hiding from Hitler’s army, Liesel befriends him. Ultimately, words and imagination provide the friends with an escape from the events unfolding around them…

My thoughts: A pretty good adaptation with some nice casting. Though it isn’t a happy-go-lucky tale, of course, it’s somewhat brighter and tamer than the novel, in a way, with almost a storybook feel to some of it.

I would’ve liked to hear a little more from Death in the film, but maybe from a different voice, as Death’s occasional narration is part of what feels storybookish. And some of the potential power is lost here as the story doesn’t convey both sides of the “power of words” theme as well as the novel does.

Nevertheless, I try not to base my judgment of film adaptations solely on their related novels, since, to state the obvious, films aren’t books. Can’t measure such different mediums with the same stick.

Hence, as a film, I give it a thumbs-up. Not sure yet if I’d watch it again, but watching it was worth it.

My corresponding reading: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

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