Alexandra Harwood is a composer I have not really heard much about, and after listening to two of film scores I cannot understand why that is, because both of them are wonderful examples of melodic and beautifully thematic music. The one I am focusing upon in this brief review is for the movie, THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY. Yes, that’s the correct title. Directed by Mike Newell and released in 2018, the film is set in the aftermath of WWll in 1946, it centres on Juliet, played by Lily James who is a free minded writer, She receives a letter from a member of a literary club which was started in the Nazi occupied territory of Guernsey, Curiosity gets the better of her and she decides to make the trip to the island to seek out the sender of the letter and the mysterious club. When she arrives Juliet meets the oddly eccentric members of the club, and also meets the author of the letter Dawsey played by Michiel Huisman, he is a handsome farmer, and as Juliet spends more time with the members of the club her affection for them, the island and Dawsey grows. Alexandra Harwood has written and succulently emotive score for the movie, which is as far as I can make out is 90 percent symphonic with a scattering of synthetic support most notable in the more percussive sections of the work. The style and the sound that she has established for the soundtrack is not unlike that of composer Rachel Portman, and at times I was reminded of her work on THE CIDER HOUSE RULES. With strings, piano and woods taking centre stage to purvey lilting and tender tone poems. The delicate and subdued sounding musical interludes do have the ability to overpower the listener but not in an aggressive fashion, one just focuses upon their simplicity and graceful aura, the score has to it an elegant charm, with each track sounding fresh and vividly thematic and vibrant, each also contains an atmosphere that is filled with a poignancy which can be both affecting and haunting. The movie, I have to say is new for me, and I am thinking maybe it was overlooked somewhat when it was released. But I would like to urge you not to overlook the score for the film, it is a eloquent and subtle work, and one that should be listened to savoured and applauded.
Alexandra Harwood is a classically trained composer. After graduating from the Royal College of Music and The Juilliard School (She became Composer in Residence for the Juilliard School Drama Division, during this period she also composed music for theatre in both the UK and the United States. She has worked with numerous actors, Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tim Nelson and Audra MacDonald amongst them. Her musical expertise is not restricted to writing for film, and she has composed ballets and works for concert hall performance. She is a BAFTA Cymru Award-winning composer, and her most recent assignment being Mike Newell’s ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’. A year before she worked on this, she scored THE ESCAPE which was a feature film directed by Dominic Savage and also worked on the Disney/Netflix U.S.A. co-production GROWING UP WILD.