The Bookshop review: Isabel Coixet adapts Penelope Fitzgerald’s famous novel for the big-screen.

The Bookshop review by Paul Heath.

The Bookshop review
The Bookshop review

Following their on-screen pairing in last year’ Berlinale delight The Party, Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarke reunite for this 1950s-set drama from Spanish director Isabel Coixet.

Adapted from Penelope Fitzgerald’s book of the same name, The Bookshop centres on Mortimer’s lead character Florence Green, a lonely widow who opens a small bookshop in the sleepy English seaside town of Hardborough, England, despite overwhelming local opposition from the surrounding, stale community, in particular the strong-willed Mrs. Gamart (Clarkson).

Introducing the town to some of the best literature of the time, including Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenhei 451’ and Nabokov’ scandalous ‘Lolita’, among others, the bookshop slowly but surely starts to turn a profit, much to the annoyance of her fellow shopkeepers.

While continuously battling her neighbours, and indeed the crippling rising damp and structure of the frail building, Florence finds an ally in the solitary figure of Bill Nighy’s Mr. Brunish, who she communicates with by sending him books. The two form a kind of distant relationship, one that proves to be vital as local pressure intensifies.

The Bookshop review
The Bookshop review

The Bookshop is undoubtedly full of decent performances, not least by the trio at the top of the billing in Mortimer, Clarkson and Nighy, but the film sadly suffers from a very slow, plodding, flat nature with not a lot there to particularly engage, entertain or invest in.

The sweeping vistas of Hardborough are captured well by Jean-Claude Larrieu (Julieta), and the production design by Llorenç Miquel also fine, but they are just two positive elements, which when added to the decent performances, still do not a good movie make on their own, and I consistently felt myself drifting off during the film’s 100-minute running time.

While some lovers of the source material may find something salvageable in here, I personally walked away with a feeling of emptiness, the story having failed to strike a chord, almost the opposite feeling to my reaction to Sally Potter’s short, tight blast of a movie featuring Mortimer and Clarkson from twelve months ago.

The Bookshop review by Paul Heath, February 2018.

The Bookshop is awaiting a UK release. It was reviewed at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival.

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The Bookshop