Lines drawn in battle over bookshop

Emily Mortimer in The Bookshop (IMDB)

A title like The Bookshop seems like a box office risk, with the closing of so many bookshops and society's reliance on the internet, social media and online books. Source: ACOFB.

However writer-director Isabel Coixet, is certainly an admirer of books. In 2007, she made a film with the evocative title, The Secret Life of Words.

The Bookshop is set in England in 1959. Florence (Emily Mortimer) is a grieving war widow who decides to fulfil an ambition to open a bookshop in a small town on the coast. She feels she is ready. She loves books. She has legal advice, she has financial advice. Could it go wrong?

The answer lies in a character of a local grand dame, Mrs Gamart (Patricia Clarkson). The wife of a retired general, she exercises power and sees herself as the leader of the town.

While Florence had taken possession of an empty residence, The Old House, Mrs Gamart had intended the house to be used as a local arts centre.

The film shows Florence’s exhilaration in setting up the bookshop. She is helped in the store by a young local, Christine (Heather Kneafsey), quite outspoken and determined, but, as she says, not a reader. Another ally for Florence is the local recluse, Edmund Brundage, played effectively and quietly by Bill Nighy. Edmund makes contact with Florence and she supplies some books, getting him interested in the works of Ray Bradbury (especially Fahernheit 451 and the story of book burning) and asking his advice as to the literary quality of Lolita.

Audiences who appreciate going back into the life of 20th century Britain will enjoy this, with its engaging and bittersweet tones.

- Reviewed by Peter Malone MSC, ACOFB.

The Bookshop: Starring Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Patricia Clarkson, Honor Kneafsey, James Lance, Hunter Tremayne, Frances Barber, Reg Wilson, Michael Fitzgerald, Nigel O' Neill, Harvey Bennett. Directed by Isabel Coixet. Rated PG (Mild themes). In cinemas May 24.

FULL REVIEW

The Bookshop

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