Starring Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Honor Kneafsey, Frances Barber, James Lance, Hunter Tremayne and Patricia Clarkson
Written and directed by Isabel Coixet
Rated: G for infrequent coarse language and infrequent substance use
Runtime: 113 minutes
The Bookshop screens on Monday, May 13 at 7 p.m. at the Arden Theatre as part of the St. Albert Public Library's Reel Mondays fundraiser. All proceeds go toward producing the St. Albert Readers' Festival, also known as STARFest. Tickets are $15 each and are available at the Customer Service desk and at www.Eventbrite.ca. Call 780-459-1530 or visit www.sapl.ca for more information.
Ah ... the dream to own a bookstore. Most bibliophiles can probably relate to Emily Mortimer’s character in this wonderful and easy dramatic film set that caps off another season of the Friends of the St. Albert Public Library’s Reel Mondays film series. What a beautiful choice, indeed: a movie that celebrates the magic of books coupled with the importance of freedom of speech. Standing up for what’s right doesn’t always mean taking the glory at the end of the day, moral victories withstanding.
Set in 1959, The Bookshop is not just set in a different time but in a complicated sociological setting. You can credit Booker Prize-winning author Penelope Fitzgerald for the source material that she set down in her writing. In the story, Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) is a widow who is eager to open up a bookshop in a small fishing town in the east of England but she faces more than moisture and public tastes hindering her success.
The building she chooses is known as the Old House, an old, long-abandoned place that could use more than a bit of new attention.
That sounds wonderful enough so she sets up shop, only to discover that another local resident, the determined and powerful Violet Gamart (Patricia Clarkson) had other plans to turn it into an arts centre.
Things become further complicated both when Green makes the acquaintance of Edmund Brundish (Bill Nighy) and when she decides to stock Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial and brilliant novel Lolita on her bookshelves. Between Gamart, Brundish and Lolita, there is more than enough fodder for the townsfolk to soon find themselves in a tizzy unbecoming such a quiet seaside place.
The casting is spot on for a film of this nature. Mortimer is a bright spot in an otherwise stuffy piece, though her role isn’t all that challenging. Nighy is lovably gruff as always. His somniferous voice would put you to sleep even if he was reciting the script for the Avengers. Thankfully, he isn’t. He simply gets to practice his championship classy British charm with full reserve. And Clarkson is like a porcelain doll: alabaster and cold. I wouldn’t characterize her acting as particularly deep – I can’t recall ever getting any depth out of any of her past performances – but she fills her role as the heavy nonetheless. I suppose that it is to be expected to see her cast, as this is the third collaboration between the actress and director Isabel Coixet.
The Bookshop is still a fine paean to bookshops in old houses everywhere and to the people who love them. To top it all off, the film also won three Goya Awards, Spain's main national annual film awards, including prizes for best film, director and adapted screenplay.