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The Bookshop

A town that lacks a bookshop isn't always a town that wants one.

The Bookshop, based on the Booker-nominated novel by Penelope Fitzgerald, is a village drama that deliciously captures the essence of old-world Britishness.

Poster for the literary adaptation The BookshopSet in a sleepy 1959 seaside port, young widow Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) arrives determined to overcome her grief and open a small bookshop. The town has never had a bookshop and most of the villagers don’t like books anyway, except for the reclusive Mr. Brundish (Bill Nighy), who reads everything he can. The fiercest opposition comes from the imperious Mrs. Gamart (Patricia Clarkson). She wants the cottage reclaimed as an arts centre, so battle lines are drawn between small-mindedness and the winds of change.

At times, the narrative slows down to focus on archetypal caricatures of small people in small places: a smug gadabout; a banker nicknamed Mr. Potato Head; a smelly fishmonger; a precocious teenager; a dithering lawyer; the snobbish and manipulative Mrs. Gamart; and of course, the incurable romantic Mr. Brundish. While these are portrayed with a light brush, it is Florence who holds our attention, for the depth of her nascent feminist courage and self-belief. The entire cast is well chosen, but Emily Mortimer is the film’s shining star.

It might be argued that Bill Nighy is such an icon of British movies that he overpowers any given role simply by being a composite of every other persona he has ever played. In other words: he is always Bill Nighy. But that is a minor distraction in an otherwise flawlessly directed and beautifully shot drama of how books and ideas can change the world we live in.

– Richard Alaba, CineMuseFilms

 

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