Film review ‘THE BOOK SHOP’, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built for Speed’

Walking into the film The Bookshop expectations were only moderate – this looked as if it would be a typical mix of charming English provincial locations, nice mid-20th century period details, a few quirky local characters and a touch of romance but it’s not even that. This strangely flat film never quite decides what it wants to be and never completely engages.

The set-up is classic twee British rom com. A perky widower Florence (Emily Mortimer) decides to start a bookshop in the main street of quiet coastal town in 1960. Despite her modest ambitions she earns the ire of town matriarch, Violet (Patricia Clarkson) who fancies herself as the town’s cultural maven and has designs on the shop for a local arts centre. Violet’s attempts to oust Florence lead to a mostly uneventful cold war.

There’s something not quite right about this film with its awkward dialogue, strange stilted performances from supporting cast members and gaping silences where there should have been dialogue or incidental music. Characters don’t come anywhere near to being fully developed including local mystery man Bill Nighy who may or may not present Florence with a possible love interest. Also, Patricia Clarkson simply doesn’t have enough presence in this film to be credible as the town monster. Emily Mortimer does what she can with the role but struggles to fashion something substantial from this slender material.

The film just seems to drift along without ever becoming really engaging. It’s not until three quarters of the way in that there’s even a hint of drama or emotion.

The film does, however, feature some attractive locations, a briefly a jaunty jazz score and evokes some sense of the characters’ love of books although this was done much better in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

In the end The Bookshop feels like a middling episode of a quirky British retro TV drama padded out to feature length.

Nick’s rating: **1/2

Genre: Period/ romance/ drama.

Classification: PG.

Director(s): Isabel Coixet.

Release date: 17th May 2018.

Running time: 113 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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