Charming and inconsequential, The Bookshop perfectly evokes the sensation of losing yourself in a good book. Nothing too heavy – more of a summer read than daunting prose – we are led stepping into its world, bumping into a delightful cast of characters as we potter along behind our heroine. Emily Mortimer is simply perfect as the reserved yet driven Mrs Florence Green, and we quickly fall in step with her and her inoffensive quest to run a sweet little bookshop.
Mortimer slips into her role with ease, and she’s not alone – the rest of the cast are on fine form, particularly the eternally resplendent Bill Nighy. Nighy must be a dream colleague, stealing every scene without overshadowing the film or his fellow performers, and he can comfortably add Edmund Bruddish to his growing list of nuanced and thoughtful roles. Patricia Clarkson also relishes another opportunity to play a villainous socialite, Mrs Gamart, and as her nefarious stooge Milo North, James Lance is smarmy without losing sight of the “big fish, small pond” essence of his pitiful scheming.
From the page and behind the camera, Catalonian auteur Isabel Coixot adapts Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel like she’s lived in sleepy English towns all her life. The Bookshop revels in the gossip and village politics of the setting, even as the campaign against Mrs Green escalates towards the preposterous. Ultimately The Bookshop puts character first, even if the score is a tad overdramatic.
It is one thing for an author to harmonise every aspect of their work, but for a film to achieve the same sense of synchronicity requires a dedicated cast and crew committed to executing a singular vision. The subject matter may be light, but the technical skill involved in The Bookshop’s charm is laudable.
CAST: Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Patricia Clarkson, Hunter Tremayne
DIRECTOR: Isabel Coixet
WRITERS: Isabel Coixet (screenplay), Penelope Fitzgerald (novel)
SYNOPSIS: Based on Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel of the same name, The Bookshop is set in 1959, as Florence Green (Emily Mortimer), a free spirited widow, puts grief behind her and risks everything to open up a bookshop – the first such shop in the sleepy seaside town of Hardborough, England. Fighting damp, cold and considerable local apathy, she struggles to establish herself.