“A good book is the precious distillation of a master spirit embalmed and preserved for the purpose of achieving a life beyond life, which is why it is undoubtedly a necessary commodity.” – The Bookshop
As a film fable “The Bookshop”, based on the 1978 novel by British Booker Prize-winning author Penelope Fitzgerald, rests its charm largely on nostalgia and book love, but also on its stellar cast.
Directed by Isabel Coixet (Learning to Drive), “The Bookshop” is a crisply painted picture of a small, conservative English town of 1959, where widow Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) endeavors to open the town’s only bookshop.After purchasing an old house within the town proper, and aided by a young assistant Christine (Honor Kneafsey) in the meticulous stocking of it, Florence awakens the locals with books by progressive authors of the time. Through book recommendations by authors like Ray Bradbury and Vladimir Nabokov, she soon acquires the patronage, trust, and friendship of reclusive widower Edmund Brundish (Bill Nighy.) But also, soon does she receive pushback from the town, lead by local town matriarch Violet Gamart (Patricia Clarkson.)
Clarkson, who has lately taken to portraying some very delicious baddies as of late, portrays a woman who’s had her own designs on the property, but oddly has seen no urgency to do anything actively— until the arrival of Florence. But when a recommendation of a new and controversial book comes to Florence via the colorful Milo North (James Lance)—where the mere mention of the book itself gives the viewer some foreshadowing of what’s to come—and at the slick, manipulative guidance of Violet, the conservative town raises a collective eyebrow.
Coixet, who has adeptly helmed films like “Elegy (2008)” and “Learning to Drive (2014)” has brought an understanding of what the presence and surrounding of books can do beyond teaching us what is within their pages. She has also highlighted what it is to be a true heroine in your own life, which can equally inspire appreciation as well as envy from others.
“As we witness her establishing herself, and the decisions she makes to move forward, we must also see the wave effect of that drop in the pond and how she affects those around her,” said Coixet of the film’s character Florence Green, in a statement.
Bibliophiles who enjoy the feel and smell of a tangible book, and not just in the reading of it, will appreciate the film and its story in mutual love. However, the film’s outcome might sting a bit. Like a Bradbury novel, it may well serve as a warning of what can come from complacency, book apathy, and apathy in general.
“The Bookshop” is now playing at select Laemmle Theatres and ends tomorrow.