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Soundtrack review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Alexandra Harwood – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Alexandra Harwood – 2018)

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“The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” is a 2018 British-French historical comedy-drama film directed by Mike Newell and written by Don Roos and Tom Bezucha. The screenplay is based on the 2008 novel of the same name, written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. The film stars Lily James, Michiel Huisman, Glen Powell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Katherine Parkinson, Matthew Goode, Tom Courtenay and Penelope Wilton. Set in 1946, the plot follows a London-based writer who begins exchanging letters with residents on the island of Guernsey, which was German-occupied during World War II. Alexandra Harwood wrote the score, and the year of girl power in film music continues, to my delight.

The main theme tells me a lot about the setting and tone of the story; it’s one of those elegant, romantic orchestral pieces, ageless, timeless, with suave piano motifs and a positive, optimistic tone that doesn’t leave the constraints of elegance. This is the beautiful, hopeful part of the story as right in the second cue “Prelude” darkness comes and the melody suffers a short-circuit; tension takes over and with a subtle marching motif, it’s war time. The music is still not overwhelming though, even in drama, and this makes me connect with it easily. I get lively when I hear the beautiful violin solo in “Dawsey’s first letter”. These little variations in tone make the standalone listening experience very enjoyable; a tense, almost electronic motifs make it feel chilli but right after a sweeping, celebratory flute and piano passage might come to simply colour everything back on.

Alexandra Harwood’s music is charming even when it’s dramatic; every now and then these wonderful, melodic motifs pop up that are just delightful and they make “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” one of those scores that are impossible not to love, at least partially. I can’t imagine anyone who listens to it not finding something to like, something to smile about, something to connect with inside it. Both the moments of joy and the moments of loss are believable, honest and quietly affecting. The music varies naturally between light and dark and it’s one of those compositions where I feel the need to admire both the composer and the orchestra for their rendition.

An orchestral score such as this one cannot fail in my book. The music is beautiful, whether it’s joyful or sad; the music is subtle and pleasant and ultimately works like a charm on its own as well.

Cue rating: 83 / 100

Highlights:
Across the Sea
Looking For Truth
Older Than Time
Home
Written For You
Juliet and Dawsey

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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