Review: The Bookshop
Starring Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Patricia Clarkson
Directed by Isabel Coixet
After a very promising start, The Newsroom was of the biggest letdowns on television of the past decade. With its budget cut and following the departure of creator Aaron Sorkin, the look into a news station that tries to reinvent itself with news values at the centre seems like the kind of story that is now so sorely needed.
One of the better aspects of the Newsroom was the way that Emily Mortimer portrayed MacKenzie Morgan McHale. Thankfully, Mortimer’s new role in The Bookshop is another opportunity for Mortimer to take the screen time she deserves.
Based on a novel by Penelope Fitzgerald, The Bookshop is a great look at power dynamics in small town life and what happens when vested interests pit themselves against community life.
Mortimer plays Florence Green, a widow who moves to a sleepy little village and purchases an old house with the intent of turning it into a combined bookshop and living area for herself.
It’s not long until the store is bringing life to the little village as one of its few centres of community, particularly when Florence starts stocking Vladamir Nabokov’s sensational novel, Lolita.
Mr Brundish (Bill Nighy), is the town shut in and resident misanthrope who quickly becomes Florence’s most regular customer, ordering books to be sent to his house directly (as he prefers books to people).
Despite this, the store quickly starts to go against the grain in town, as powerful cultural interests have designs on the old house as the site for a potential arts centre.
The Bookshop nicely depicts the difference genuine community and connection can make in people’s lives, particularly in Bruddish and Florence’s genuine connection over literature (and the latter’s emergent fascination with Ray Bradbury’s work). In a time when sales of physical books remain surprisingly resilient, bookstores and places like them can provide a sense of physical community in our digital world. There is something for churches to take away from this.
Partially shot in Spain, The Bookshop was nominated for several Goya awards and won three, including best picture. Outside of this, it has largely had the profile of many an obscure paperback: deserving of more attention than it is receiving but neglected amongst a busy release schedule (the same month as Solo, Deadpool 2, and Infinity War). While it is currently playing in Australia as part of a somewhat limited run, it is a find worth tracking down.
The Bookshop is rated PG and is now playing in cinemas.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor