Review: The Bookshop is worth checking out for its performances and setting

Emily Mortimer is excellent as a widow who opens a bookshop in a small Suffolk village in the late 1950s

THE BOOKSHOP (Isabel Coixet). 112 minutes. Opens Friday (August 24). See listing. Rating: NNN

The Bookshop is a moderately entertaining adaptation of Penelope Fitzgerald’s slender novel about Florence Green (Emily Mortimer), a widow who opens up a bookshop in a dilapidated stone house in a small Suffolk town in the late 1950s.

Nobody except the town’s aristocratic recluse, Edmund Brundish (Bill Nighy), is interested in books, and the two gradually form a tender friendship – first through letters and novels (he gives her advice about stocking the controversial Lolita), and then in person. Their enemy is wealthy socialite Violet Gamart (Patricia Clarkson at her brittle best), who wants to replace the bookstore with an arts centre.

Much of the film consists of scenes of gossiping neighbours, quaint vistas and distant looks out at the sea, all tastefully underscored by cello music. But even without a very compelling plot, the actors are good, especially Mortimer, who, whether she’s interacting with a precocious young student who helps out in the store (Honor Kneafsey) or a lazy, flippant BBC type (James Lance), suggests layers of depth and pain beneath her stiff upper lip.

Spaniard Isabel Coixet doesn’t add much to this veddy, veddy English film, but it’s watchable, and bibliophiles will love ogling the first editions and old Penguin classics.

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