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After successfully tackling new terrain by helming the big budget superhero adventure Thor, actor/writer/director Kenneth Branagh will return to his comfort zone of period-piece adaptations with the romantic drama The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, based on the New Yorks Times Bestselling novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Set in 1946, amidst the aftermath of the final bloody battles of World War II, the story centers on ambitious journalist Juliet Ashton, who finds the inspiration for her next book in a curious letter from a stranger who lives on the small island of Guernsey. He tells her of his simple village off the coast of Normandy, and how he and his neighbors survived—and even thrived—in spite of Nazi-German Occupation. Soon, more letters from Guernsey arrive, and Ashton becomes enchanted with their tales of Guernsey's Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, an awkward alibi turned needed catharsis for a community living in fear.
Filled with quirky characters and a mix of humor and humanity in the face of brutality, it's little wonder Branagh was drawn to the material. And the same could be said for his leading lady. The Daily Mail reports that Oscar-winner Kate Winslet will take on the role of Juliet Ashton, a smart move on Branagh's part, as he'd be hard-pressed to find a more skilled actress when it comes to adaptations. Whether its portraying a suicidal Shakespearean heroine as she did opposite Branagh in his Hamlet, playing a reckless Jane Austen romantic or a more modern mother whose equally vexed by the confines her society, Winslet never fails to impress.
Branagh on the other hand, can be a hit or miss director. And while he seems a good fit for the material, I am a bit concerned about one element of adapting The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, namely that the book is made up of letters to and from Juliet Ashton. Aside from watching people type on computers, few actions are as visually dull as seeing people write a letter. Of course successfully translating a book of this nature can be done. The novel We Need to Talk About Kevin used a similar epistolary device, and its adaptation managed to discard it completely, and seamlessly create a deeply gripping and poignant thriller. Simply put, I'll be curious to see how Branagh translates this novel to film, and am eager to see Winslet back in period attire.
With the drama set to shoot in mid-March, we can expect to hear further casting reports soon.