I'm always interested in movies and books set in the WWII era, so I was excited to watch the 2005 British miniseries Island At War, which tells the story of residents of the fictional island of St. Gregory in the Channel Islands. Located between Britain and France, the Channel Islands were vital to the Nazis' plan to eventually invade England. Focusing on the middle-class Mahys (shopkeeper Cassie, husband Urban and daughters Angelique and June), the upper-class Dorrs (Senator James Dorr, wife Felicity and son Phil), and the working-class Jonases (policeman/fisherman Wilf, wife Kathleen and children Colin and Mary), Island at War traces their lives from the start of the Nazi invasion through most of the war.
The series packs a dramatic punch from the start-- within the first few minutes a main character is dead and there is definitely violence within all the episodes-- but the bloodshed is not gratuitous and works to accurately convey the day-to-day humiliation and fear the people suffered. One of my favorite aspects of Island at War was how it made me think about the options presented to the occupied people and how I might react in a similar situation. Do you comply with the Nazis out of fear and to make your life safer or do you resist them and face death or imprisonment? What do you do when some of the occupiers become more to you than just a nameless, evil force? All of the actors were great, but those playing Baron Heinrich Von Rheingarten, Oberleutnant Walker and the other Nazis were truly skilled at showing how the Germans occupying St. Gregory could be alternately merciful or evil in their reactions to wrongdoing but were always unpredictable.
While the acting was great and the characters well-formed, I ended up being disappointed with the series. Several storylines were left unfinished and I admit I would have loved to see the St. Gregory residents through the end of the war, not just through 1943. 3 or 4 main characters' fates are left in limbo and it felt like they were hoping for a sequel but it didn't happen (Island at War was filmed in 2003, and from what I read online there's been no talk of a second installment).
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Dramatic, heartfelt and with a little romance thrown in, I really enjoyed Island at War for the most part, but lots of loose ends and some strange storylines left me feeling underwhelmed. For a slightly lighter tale of the Channel Islands during war time, check out The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.