In view of the preponderance of unfavourable opinions of this film I had given up on thoughts of bothering to see it. Then today, with the final screening in this area, I spontaneously thought "Well, why the hell not?" I'm pleased I went as for me it wasn't anything near as unlikeable as others have found it.
Based on the novel by Penelope Fitzgerald, who co-wrote the screenplay with the film's Spanish director, Isabel Coixet, it's set in 1959 in the fictitious, attractive, small English coastal town of Hardborough (exteriors actually filmed in Northern Ireland) where middle-aged widow (Emily Mortimer) wishes to open a bookshop using the premises of an old house which has a well-regarded and established history in the town. There's strong opposition to her plan, particularly from a wealthy, ageing, married lady (Patricia Clarkson) who fears the opening up of such a business will harm the character of the locality, and even when the shop opens to some success she'll not shrink from using her influence to have it closed down.
Meanwhile, a book-loving, single recluse (Bill Nighy) starts a correspondence with the shop owner, requesting particular books while she sends him works which she feels he may like or wants his opinion on them, which he's contented to do for her. Although their relationship doesn't go as far as a romantic one (they only meet a couple of times) it does skate on thin ice as regards sentiment, though remaining on the (for me) acceptably non-indulgent side - just.
In the opening scenes I was thinking that the film was curiously static. Then, because of what I'd heard, I had to pull myself up as I realised I'd unconsciously been looking for 'faults' as if to confirm that it really was a 'poor' film. The penny dropped and I started looking on it as a gentle, unassuming film, and from that p.o.v. it worked much better.
Unfavourable comparisons have been made with 'Chocolat' and there are certainly a number of plot similarities. I couldn't claim that 'Bookshop' is superior or even the earlier film's equal but I do think it stands up well on its own. I'm happy to have made the effort.............6.5.
(IMDb.................6.5 / Rotten Tomatoes.............4.9)
2 hours ago