© Capelight Pictures/Central

Der Buchladen der Florence Green (The Bookshop)
Spain/U.K./Germany 2017

Opening 10 May 2018

Directed by: Isabel Coixet
Writing credits: Isabel Coixet, Penelope Fitzgerald
Principal actors: Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Patricia Clarkson, Hunter Tremayne, Honor Kneafsey

A bookshop opening in a quayside village in 1959 and the indelible mark its owner made on the community is a story told by a key participant. Mrs. Green (Emily Mortimer), a bookworm—passionately reads books, makes a surprising decision. Vigorously pursuing the venture with both banker (Hunter Tremayne) and lawyer (Jorge Suquet), Florence’s persistence pays off. The plumber (Nigel O'Neill) gets the water running, and puts forward suitable part-time helper names. Unbeknownst to Florence, village feathers are being ruffled: posh General (Reg Wilson) and Violet (Patricia Clarkson) Gamart, and eel-slippery Milo North (James Lance). Hardborough’s reclusive, wealthy Mr. Brundish (Bill Nighy) approves and via Wally (Harvey Bennett) Florence introduces him and the villagers, to new works, including Nabokov’s Lolita and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Soon it is clear people have merely forgotten that books abound with fascination. A slow-to-boil battle of wits disrupts Florence’s flourishing business, whereby she realizes birds of a feather stick together… well, mostly.

Spanish writer-director Isabel Coixet’s version of Penelope Fitzgerald’s same titled book unfortunately has storyline discrepancies. Characters appearing from out-of-the-blue are nevertheless entrenched in the action, as if they were in a previous scene that ended up on the editing room floor. Still, Mortimer, Nighy, and Clarkson’s performances are wonderful. Alfonso de Vilallonga’s mood evoking music combined with 1950s tunes, Jean-Claude Larrieu’s poetic cinematography (filmed in North Ireland and Barcelona), and Bernat Aragonés’ editing add to audience gratification.

Julie Christie starred in the 1966-film version of Ray Bradbury’s 1951 sci-fi novel, Fahrenheit 451. The premise, firefighters destroying government-outlawed books, is how a book-hoarder (Christie) turns a firefight’s (Oskar Werner) life upside-down. How fitting that the comfortingly modulated and cozy voice-over is Christie’s. The Bookshop is a made-in-heaven film for bookworms, and those with appreciation for a nostalgic underdog tale. (Marinell Haegelin)

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