The Bookshop Review
Some movies grab the viewer and draw you in. The Bookshop is one of those movies. Based on the novel by Penelope Fitzgerald of the same name, this story follows a widow in 1950’s England, who decides to open a bookshop in her tiny English town. Why a bookshop? Because, as Florence Green, our intrepid heroine tells us, you never feel alone in a bookshop. Plus, Florence met her beloved husband while they were working in a bookshop and is quite fond of the written word.
Florence Green wants to buy a house, in town, called The Old House and make it into a bookshop. Her town does not have a bookshop and she is passionate about reading after all. Of course, not everyone in Florence’s small-town thinks that her bookshop is a good idea. Mrs. Violet Gamart, a wealthy pillar of local society, has been eyeing the Old House for an Arts Center, and others, including Florence’s solicitor, are concerned if Florence can handle running a business on her own.
Florence’s spirit proves hardy, however, and the shop, The Old House Bookshop, opens. This introduces her to Christine, who works for her, and reclusive bookworm widower Mr. Edmund Brundish, who is thrilled to discover the works of Ray Bradbury. I don’t want to tell you any more about him, because his story unfolds in a fun way, and I would hate to spoil that for you.
Although many in town do come around to the idea of a bookshop, Mrs. Gamart is not one of them. She is also not one to take defeat lying down and proceeds to wage war against The Old House Bookshop. Does Mrs. Gamart actually want an art center, or does she just hate the idea of change? Who knows? And in the end, it does not matter. Although her war is done in the politest way possible, it is still a little surprising to see how far this woman will go to get her way. In the end, things unravel in the best, most heartbreaking, and surprising way possible. Personally, I loved (almost) every minute of it.
I always love seeing movies about small town life, because it’s funny how real they can be. In a small town, everyone knows everyone, and there are no secrets. This is an example of a small town done right. Also, the costumes are lovely, and the surrounding marshes are also beautiful. Overall, it’s a very pleasant movie to watch. Even when the characters are being frustratingly naive, the backdrop makes up for it.
Florence Green is a widow who is following her dream, to open a bookshop in the Old House. She is a wonderful character. Florence is sweet, caring, and nurturing. She also believes the best about everyone that she meets, and while this is not always a good thing, you can’t help rooting for her.
There are a few characters that you wish she would not trust, like Milo North, who keeps entering into her life. However, the relationships that Florence develops are full of heart. She and Mr. Brundish are a wonderful pair of friends, and there is a little hint of potential romance. This little bit of romance doesn’t overshadow the plot, however, and I appreciated that. The story is still about a woman trying to run a bookshop in an unsure town, but all the hinted romances are sweet and wonderful in their ways. Florence’s relationship with Christine is also wonderful.
Christine goes from a young girl who hates to read to a young girl who is fiercely loyal and protective of her new employer. Christine may not like books, but she loves Florence and she loves The Old House Bookshop. As time goes by, however, Christine grows to appreciate literature in a way she hadn’t before.
Christine is also a little savvier than Florence in some ways, which makes them a fun pair to watch. I especially enjoyed watching Christine threaten Mr. North if he interfered with Mrs. Green and the shop. It was played very seriously, and I had no doubt that Christine would go after anyone who hurt her friend.
If you love to read, enjoy movies set in the 1950s, small-town life, or like movies about the power of reading, I would recommend checking out The Bookshop. It’s got a determined heroine, some wonderful friendships, and a lot of beautiful books. The characters are fun, whether delightful like Christine and Mr. Brundish or slimy like Milo North. It’s a story about fighting through hard times, about knowing when to fight, and about knowing when it’s time to give up that fight.
The Bookshop is a powerful story about reading and the impact it can make on life, but it is also a story of reaching for one’s dreams and the powerful friendships that can form when we are doing just that. It’s about humans being tougher than we think, and how we all need human contact, as well as our favorite books. I laughed and I cried, and I will certainly be watching The Bookshop again.
Content Note: There is some drinking, smoking, and brief language, but this film is rated PG.
Where to Watch: You can rent or buy on Digital/DVD.
Have you seen The Bookshop yet? Have you read the book? Let me know in the comments!
Photo Credits: Diagonal TV, A Contracorriente Films, Green Films.
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