It’s Feminist Feb on the Collab, y’all and it’s pretty much my favourite month of any year apart from Halloween. This means lots of strong and courageous women being strong and courageous all over the place like goddamn Queens. Something I will always be here for.
Alas, I’m not sure about my first pick for February. It undoubtedly encompasses the spirit of this month, however it was also deeply dreary and for this I am sorry, Jill.
The Bookshop (2018)
Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) is a widow living in a small East Anglian village in 1959. Against all advice and perhaps common sense, she decides to open a bookshop on the high street. It’s a lovely notion but you get the idea that not many of the locals are big readers, with the exception of the reclusive Edmund Brundish (Bill Nighy).
This doesn’t dissuade her from her #goals however and she’s even less inclined to give up when local lady, the politically connected Violet Gamart (Patricia Clarkson) decides to start messing with her. Florence stands tall against an onslaught of annoying obstacles, all thrown her way by Violet who has her heart set on the old house-turned-bookshop. In Violet’s opinion, there are much better uses for the property than a lowly bookshop – namely an arts centre. You get the impression that V just wants to make life difficult for Florence and I can’t blame her, small time life seems rather dull.
Luckily, Florence finds an unlikely friend, cheerleader (and potential love interest?) in the gruff Mr Brundish. Brundish is a massive reader and Florence quickly gets into his good books (lolll) by sending him poetry and other assorted tomes. The two bond when Flo asks Brundish to read Lolita and tell her if it’s any good (spoiler: it is).
She wants to sell it in her shop but worries it might be too risqué for the villagers (spoiler: it does get her in trouble with Violet) . When Brundish invites Flo to tea, an invitation that V and her husband, the General have been vying for for years, their friendship grows. And so does V’s rage.
Brundish btw is the victim of village gossip, a widower (or is he?) who lost his wife in a variety of creative and brutal ways. Fortunately, Florence’s appearance in his life affords him the opportunity to be truthful about who he really is – and the real story ain’t half as fun.
I guess the main question here is: will the bookshop succeed?
Well, I love love love the premise and I love that this gives us a strong female protagonist of a different kind. She’s not a sassy, finger-clicking broad. She’s wall-flowery. However, she will not be moved and she’s not frightened to take on the glamorous (and bitchy) Violet, not for a minute. This examines a different type of strength, the quiet type that doesn’t feel the need to shout about it every five minutes. This is important. It also looks at female competition by pitting two very different women against one another.
Unfortunately, there was quite a lot about it that grated on my nerves. First off the narrator. I get what they were going for but for god’s sake can we not? Anyone viewing a movie like this probably has the basic grasp of narrative, so don’t bother. Florence is realllllllly boring, like she has no oomph and although I don’t doubt she’s strong at the core I do wish she had a little more personality (which might be contradictory to what I’ve just outlined above). I suppose this is a period piece so I can’t expect her to be going around sassing everyone out as it wasn’t the done thing in 50’s England but still. I would have liked her to be less of a wet blanket around her friends at least.
Bill Nighy’s character is sweet but I don’t buy the fact that Florence would be tempted to get romantically involved with him, even if he is Bill Nighy. There’s an awkward encounter on the beach and it was so cringey. There’s also not nearly enough of delicious Violet which smarts, frankly. Patricia Clarkson is an absolute legend.
There is interesting potential support in the form of Frances Barber and James Lance but I didn’t find myself getting attached to anyone. Something really dark happens which was emotional and even more emotional when Florence reacts to it but all in all this is just a very bland experience.
Christine (Honor Kneafsey), the child that Florence misguidedly hires to work in her shop is about the only character I thought had any chutzpah and maybe that’s because she does something absolutely crazy at the end of the film that I admire, in a Liza ‘Left-eye’ Lopez kind of way. The ending is actually very dramatic and it saves the movie for me.
Apart from all that I can definitely see myself running a bookshop somewhere remote. And you’re damn right I’d stock 250 copies of Lolita.
⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
What does my love think of this one? Is she a fan of The Bookshop or would she campaign to have it shut down using any means necessary? Find out here.
P.S. I’m told by a reliable source (Jill) that our FOUR YEAR Blog Collab anniversary comes up on the 16th of Feb. This is longer than most of my adult relationships and some of my friendships and I cannot believe it. To celebrate, I’ll write something but also, we’ll be returning to our original posting day of Sunday. Over the years due to other commitments (and sometimes, my laziness) we have put it back further and further. No more!
So I hope you all enjoy it as much as we do, and if not – it doesn’t matter one bit… because we love it.