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film review
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Emily Mortimer in The Bookshop.

  • The Bookshop
  • Written and directed by Isabel Coixet
  • Starring Emily Mortimer
  • Classification PG
  • 113 minutes


3.5 out of 4 stars

Readers of Penelope Fitzgerald’s understated novels may be prepared, but for the rest of us, Isabel Coixet’s film adaptation of The Bookshop will come as a narrative shock. Its combination of small-town satire, a determined heroine and various local eccentrics might seem headed straight for heart-warming underdog territory, but the film is something subtler and more bitter.

Emily Mortimer stars as Florence Green, a war widow trying to start a bookshop in a decrepit building in a conservative English fishing village in the 1950s. She does a remarkable job silently digesting the insults of Florence’s many foes, while Patricia Clarkson deftly plays her principal nemesis, the lady-of-the-manor who fantasizes about starting an arts centre in the same building.

Coixet occasionally overplays her hand – a dropped headscarf, a sudden death – as does a constipated Bill Nighy in the role of the reclusive widower who is Florence’s one ally, but overall, the film is stealthily impressive.

And that’s not to mention the lovely contemporary irony of a town that distrusts the arrival of a bookstore.

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