Visually Pleasing Yet Uninspiring
The Bookshop is a soft, slow and uninspiring film but what it lacks in an uplifting storyline, it tries to make up for with a kooky Bill Nighy character and an array of gorgeous books.
The story of The Bookshop is a dreary one; in post-World War II times, a quiet but courageous widower named Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) has moved to a small village in England where she has recently taken up inhabitance of a large abandoned house and decides to turn the bottom floor into a bookshop. This upsets a particularly spiteful member of the local community Violet Gamart (played by Patricia Clarkson) who makes it her personal responsibility to stop Florence and forcibly close the bookshop, while Florence and the local recluse Mr Brundish (Bill Nighy) form an unlikely friendship as they bond over books. That’s pretty much all there is to it.
I can imagine the simplicity of the story will please and attract some viewers who will enjoy a simple and easy-to-watch film, however, the lack of serious drama, development of romantic and platonic relationships or any form of action or suspense left the film feeling incredibly slow and unfortunately a little boring. The Bookshop reminded me of the 2013 film Inside Llewyn Davis in the way that it was not a complete story but more a small snippet taken from one character’s life. We do not know who Florence is, where she came from or where she will be going once the film ends but we have been given the opportunity to be present and compassionate during the events she experiences inside The Bookshop.
The film itself is visually pleasing with many sweeping shots of warm cottages nestled into blustery British coastlines. If you’ve ever wanted to explore the secluded coasts of England from the comfort and warmth of a cinema chair, The Bookshop helps you accomplish that. It also provides comfort and familiarity to anybody that loves the simplicity of bookshops; many scenes are shot artistically and from angles that result in full and overflowing bookshop shelves making for a colourful and warm backdrop for the slow-moving dialogue and lack of action.
The cast is an interesting combination of three established actors – Mortimer, Nighy and Clarkson – surrounded and supported by significantly less-established yet no less impressive actors. Bill Nighy is always a delight and is no different in The Bookshop where he plays a kooky, author-hating recluse who lives in a house overrun with plants and devoid of any other life. Emily Mortimer is convincing as Florence Green, a widower of 16 years who has no intention of letting go of her late husband but one who is determined to make something of herself regardless. Patricia Clarkson’s character Violet Gamart is simply pretentious and obnoxious with a wooden way of speaking and an unexplained urge to make everyone around her feel lesser. One of few highlights in the film, however, was James Lance who plays an equal parts charming and conniving silver fox who seems to be torn between falling head over heels for Florence or destroying her dreams on behalf of Mrs Gamart– neither of which he does with any pizazz or flare however that seems to fit perfectly with the rest of his apathetic character.
Overall, The Bookshop is a slow and underwhelming film that while boasting some impressive aesthetic shots and a few great actors, unfortunately still falls short.