Stars: Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Patricia Clarkson, Hunter Tremayne, Honor Kneafsey, James Lance, Michael FitzGerald, Frances Barber, Reg Wilson.
Director: Isabel Coixet
Screenplay: Isabel Coixet
I was expecting a quaint run-in-the-mill British 50's melodrama which pushes the cringe of ever so slight hokeyness — to realise very early on that that was not what I was getting, I almost cried out in joy (maybe the Brits have learnt the errors of their ways...) This film though it lends itself to the quaintness of storytelling it is able to do one better, give agency and literally drop the mic of such melodramatic storytelling by calling out every single character and their ridiculously small mindedness.
Set in a small seaside village, Florence (Emily Mortimer) decides to open a bookshop in the 'old house' in the centre of town. Apparently this is seen as an insane idea as the people seem to be quite proud of the fact that they never open a book other than to use it as a sleeping pill. Mrs. Violet Gamart (Patricia Clarkson) immediately urges Florence to use the old house as an art centre, Florence obviously ignores her and her shop becomes quite successful.
It is not really the story that grasps me, it is the way it every so slightly modifies the way it tells the story. There is a sense of agency in these characters, they all have their perspective and ways of handling their situations. While each character plays a role in the quaint tale, they none-the-less seem to walk to their own drum. Florence stands up for herself in a way that feels insanely modern. They tells the Banker (Hunter Tremayne) to stop patronising her, doesn't play Mrs. Gamart's tried game of hierarchy, and side eyes Milo (James Lance) when she clearly wants him to leave her alone so she can have a normal conversation with his girlfriend so also seems rather pissed off with him.
These small changes to the hokey makes this film a breath of fresh air into a genre that I have been tired of since Downton Abbey.