Despite the dusty and rather unadventurous assumptions associated with a title like “The Bookshop,” “The Bookshop,” surprisingly, isn’t a story entirely without thrills. That is to say, it’s a quiet, dark-colored film with its own set of small-town stakes that, inevitably, leave big and lasting consequences for its charters.
Set in a remote English town in the 1950s, the stage in which this story takes place is dreary and cold, an environment that perfectly lends itself to cozying up with a good book (or in the case of this review, movie). Somehow, Spanish filmmaker Isabel Coixet is able to bring a British sensibility and a sense of British humor to this quiet, subtle, and amiable film.
Emily Mortimer stars as Florence Green, a small, widowed woman with a big heart for books. She’s the buttoned-up and well-read hero I’ve always dreamed of. If literature has taught us anything at all, it’s that every hero needs a villain. And this film’s villain comes in the form of Violet Gamart, played by the red-lipped and pointed Patricia Clarkson. She wants to open up an “arts center” in the exact same space where Florence has just opened up her bookshop. They disagree, first in that polite British way, and then eventually with more malice and razored words.
At some point Mr. Brundish, played by the ever-delightful Bill Nighy, enters the scene. And over discussions of literature, specifically of Ray Bradbury and Vladimir Nabokov, a lovely friendship is formed. When Violet wants the snatch the space away from Florence, he hobbles to her defense, using his love of language and verbiage and good, old-fashioned humility as his greatest weapons.
As you can imagine, the plot builds; well as much as the wild drama of a bookstore versus an art center can build. It’s a quiet film that doesn’t necessitate movie theatre screening but is more suitable to the quiet, cozy cushions and confines of your own home. Perhaps it’s because of my unrelenting and unyielding love of literature; perhaps it’s because I’ve always harbored secrete dreams of owning my own bookshop; perhaps it’s because this is a film’s namesake was, in fact, first a novel (Penelope Fitzgerald’s); perhaps it’s the accents; perhaps it’s as simple as Bill Nighy, Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson appearances. Whatever the reason, I thoroughly enjoyed “The Bookshop.” I give this film four out of five stars.