Posted Jul 02 2018

The Bookshop - This Movie Rocks In A Slightly Odd Way

Dir: Isabel Coixet

Starring Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Patricia Clarkson, Frances Barber

The Bookshop is an odd film. Quite a pleasant one, but odd.

Adapted from the best-seller about selling books by Penelope Fitzgerald, it offers all the trappings of the so-called British heritage movie – period setting, period cossies, lots of post-War austerity – but it really isn’t that kind of film.

Emily Mortimer arrives in this small town in the late ‘50s to open a bookshop in the dilapidated Old House. Seems reasonable. The locals are suspicious of her, which also seems reasonable. And slowly we are introduced to the ways of the community, most notably Clarkson’s dominating local aristo – who wants the Old House for an arts centre – and Bill Nighy’s tragic recluse, who develops a major thing for reading Ray Bradbury.

Perhaps it is the outsider’s eye that director and screenplay writer Coixet brings to everything, but there is something quietly unsettling about the people of this small coastal town, something that is echoed in the movie’s climax and the actions of an impressionable young girl (also the story’s narrator.) Primarily, the population of the town seems so sparse that it’s hard to imagine any form of shop thriving in this place, yet alone the need to reorder another 200 copies of Lolita once it rapidly sells out. And as for opening an arts centre – well, we can’t really see that one taking off, let alone being something worth fighting over.

As you would expect though, the performances are more than worth watching, with Mortimer, an underused actress, as excellent as ever, whilst Nighy brings as much understated emotion to his role, as Clarkson does scene chewing bitterness to hers.

Nothing Wicker Man-like comes to pass in this strange little community, but this is not a film that ever relaxes into its own period or scenery. It walks an unusual edge, which in its own way makes it more compelling. But odd.


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