by: Brigid Walshe ’19 A&E Staff
Some people may recognize Lily James from her performances as Lady Rose MacClare on Downton Abbey, Cinderella in Disney’s 2015 live-action remake Cinderella, or even from her more recent roles in Baby Driver and Darkest Hour. Whether you have been a fan of hers for years or are just hearing about James now, the summer of 2018 was arguably the best of her career.
Critics praised James for her performances as young Donna in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, the long-awaited sequel to the 2008 film, Mamma Mia!, as well as Juilet Ashton in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a new Netflix film that follows a young author on a journey to the Isle of Guernsey post-World War II.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was one of the summer’s biggest hits. James took on the challenge of portraying the vibrant and lively young Donna, whose older self was played by Meryl Streep in the first film. While it is no easy task to play a character previously portrayed by someone many consider to be a cinematic legend, James stepped up to the challenge, bringing Donna’s charisma and wild spirit back to life in the sequel.
The film is set in both the past and present. It explores Donna’s adventures after she graduates from Oxford up until she finds out she is pregnant with her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried). Meanwhile, in the present day, Sophie is getting ready to open a new taverna with the help of her boyfriend, Donna’s friends, and her dads. James received acclaim from critics, including Richard Brody of the New Yorker who said, “[James] brings a dramatic depth and substance with a seemingly calm effortlessness to a role that’s written as if on postcards.”
James’ second big summer project was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. This film was based on the 2008 novel of the same name by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer. The story follows a young author (played by James) who begins corresponding through letters with members of a book club called the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, formed during the German occupation of the British Isle of Guernsey.
The film, which also stars Glen Powell, received mostly positive reviews, with many critics praising James’ performance. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times says, “James effortlessly holds the story together.”
After her whirlwind summer, James will not be returning to the screen for a while. Her next film role will be in an untitled Danny Boyle/Richard Curtis project set to premiere in 2019. It will be a musical comedy about a world where only one man can remember The Beatles’ music. She will also be returning to the stage in London’s West End for All About Eve next February. With consistent success and praise from critics, James has quickly become one of the most sought after actresses in Hollywood.