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DVD Review: The Bookshop

Based on Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel of the same name; The Bookshop is set in 1959, Florence Green (Emily Mortimer), a free-spirited widow, puts grief behind her and risks everything to open up a bookshop – the first such shop in the sleepy seaside town of Hardborough, England. Fighting damp, cold and considerable local apathy she struggles to establish herself but soon her fortunes change for the better.

I had not read the original novel and went into the film expecting one of those light-hearted romantic comedies. You know the type, set in a Britain of yesteryear, full of eccentric characters having a bit of a lark. That was not the case.

Instead, it was a film that dealt with grief, small-mindedness, failure and people trying to make a difference. It took me a while to change gear in my mind and I feel my expectations got the better of me.

You cannot go wrong with Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, and Bill Nighy, but I wish there had been a bit more to their characters. Instead, they were either just a hero or villain with little or no shade of grey. In many places, it all felt a bit flat and uninvolving. The whole thing with the art centre also felt a little off. It just seemed like an odd concept and I kept thinking “why not have both in the same building?”

Director Isabel Coixet and cinematographer Jean-Claude Larrieu certainly made a good looking film, with lots of beautiful shots of the English countryside and village. However, while they looked great you could have cut a few of them out. It did seem to drag in places and I am not sure whether they were trying to be more profound with the long takes.

There were a few surprising moments throughout the film, but to say more would be on the spoilery side of things. As I said at the beginning, I was expecting more of a comedy and it went in a different way. Therefore, I may well be more disappointed than I should have been. If you are a fan of the book, then you will probably get a lot more out of the film then I did.

It was one of those Sunday afternoon type films or BBC drama that you come across while flicking through the channels. It could have done with being about 20 minutes shorter, but it was worth a watch if there is nothing else on.

The Bookshop is out on DVD from 22nd October 2018.

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