IN 1994, love was all around director Mike Newell as he shepherded romantic comedy Four Weddings And A Funeral to a trio of coveted BAFTAS – including Best Film – and two Oscar nominations.

That loving feeling persists in The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society, a cumbersome title for a sweeping tale of self-sacrifice, based on the posthumously published novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Set predominantly on the island during and after the Second World War when Germans invaded, Newell’s chocolate box romance was filmed in Devon and is laden with soft centres to guarantee swoons of satisfaction.

Kate Winslet was originally attached as the film’s plucky heroine but the luminous Lily James now casts a warm glow as one point of a tantalising love triangle that provides the framework for a grim history lesson peppered with heartache.

The script cuts back and forth between 1941 and 1946 in order to conceal twists in the plot, evoking the era with impeccable period design that contrasts simple, earthy tones of life off the British mainland with the exuberance and impeccable style of high society London rebuilding itself following the Blitz. Author Juliet Ashton (James) and publisher Sidney Stark (Matthew Goode) embark on a book tour amid the rubble of a capital decimated by bombs.

Out of the blue, Juliet receives a letter from a Guernsey farmer called Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman), who shares fascinating details about a literary society established under German occupation.

Intrigued by this inspirational story of defiance in a time of conflict, Juliet travels to the island to meet Dawsey and club members Eben (Tom Courtenay), Isola (Katherine Parkinson) and Amelia (Penelope Wilton) while founder Elizabeth (Jessica Brown Findlay) is curiously absent.

Juliet seeks temporary lodgings and the pious landlady (Bronagh Gallagher) intimates a dark secret involving the society.

The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society confidently navigates choppy emotional waters separating the two time frames.

James and Huisman’s on-screen chemistry simmers while the former wrestles with the disparity between her own situation and the indomitable spirit of the islanders. Sterling support led by Wilton plucks heartstrings without resorting to shameless emotional manipulation.

RATING: 7/10