So right now in the UK, we are in the midst of a heatwave and one of the best places to get out of a heatwave is the cinema since cinemas have guaranteed air conditioning. That’s pretty much the main reason why I decided to give The Bookshop a go, with the cast of Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy and Patricia Clarkson making up my mind, plus it would allow me to add another film directed by a woman to the list of those I’ve seen this year. However, this ended up being a fairly boring time at the cinema, livened up in a few moments.The film focuses on Florence Green, a middle-aged widow who decides to fulfil her dream and opens up a bookshop in town where she lives, choosing The Old House, a historical relic which has now become run down, as the shops location. Through doing this, she comes into contact with Edmund Brundish, a local recluse who loves reading and becomes Green’s main customer, and Violet Gamart, who wants to take over the building and use it to build an arts centre, with Green having to fight to keep the bookshop her own. Now what works about the film is the central idea of the bookshop and the conflict between Green and Gamart. The idea of having a bookshop and the trials and tribulations of owning one is an interesting idea and the tenacity of Green in running it shines through. The conflict with Gamart meanwhile interested me, mainly because I am a planner and seeing a film which devotes a good portion of its run-time to determining change of use, renovating historic properties and compulsory purchase orders in the interest of preserving a historic artefact that isn’t a listed building is fascinating to me. Unfortunately though, the film doesn’t live up to these ideas. Firstly, the film is way too exposition heavy, relying so much on telling rather than showing, with narration (which is probably straight from the book) taking up a good chunk of the film and destroying a lot of the pacing by just explaining everything that is happening. I also think the books highlighted in the film could have played a bigger role in the film. A lot of attention is given to Fahrenheit 451 and Lolita, but it’s all surface dressing, no attention is given to them, with a lot of missed opportunities to connect the themes of Fahrenheit 451 and the moral panic over Lolita to the events of this film. The whole thing just feels like a lot of missed opportunities and is fairly boring as a result.
The performances meanwhile are fairly solid. Emily Mortimer does a good job as Green, showing her love of books and desire to spread them around to everyone well, and the desperation she feels as she begins to lose control of the bookshop is played brilliantly. Bill Nighy as Brundish is exactly what you’d expect from Bill Nighy as a book obsessed loner, playing the part well as is to be expected from Bill Nighy, but the script doesn’t give him much to work with and his character doesn’t really make sense when you think about it. Patricia Clarkson as Gamart gives a great, slimy performance, showing her corruption in getting the government and other facilities in the town to take the bookshop away from Green effectively, but she could have been given more development as to why she wanted an arts centre in the town, without this she comes across as one-note. There’s solid work done by Honor Kneafsey whilst we get an incredibly annoying performance from James Lance.
Overall, there are some great ideas and solid performances in The Bookshop that make it an interesting watch, but the overall film is just boring, relying too much on exposition and not taking advantage of the thematic weight of the books mentioned. This should have been a much better film but it ends up being generic.
My Rating: 3/5