Every now and again, in amongst the Hollywood heavyweights, a quintessential British drama shines like a diamond in the rough, comforting in it’s familiarity like your own bed after a long holiday. Often these films are few and far between but the next few of weeks sees not one, but two British musical dramas hit the big screen. Wild Rose weaves a ‘country’ tale in the city of Glasgow while Fisherman’s Friends embraces the heart and ‘sole’ of the Cornish coast (puns intended, #sorrynotsorry).
Inspired by true events, Fisherman’s Friends is an underdog story of a group of humble Cornish fishermen who sign a record deal with Universal Records and achieve a top ten hit.
Visiting a small Cornish coastal town for a stag weekend, London music executive, Daniel ‘Danny’ Anderson (Daniel Mays) is pranked by his boss and tasked with persuading a group of shanty singing fishermen to sign a contract with a record label. Initially dubious, Danny agrees, in part to maintain his reputation as a ‘closer’ but mainly as an attempt to bed a local girl who has taken his fancy, Alwyn (Tuppence Middleton), coincidentally the daughter of the surliest, most stubborn member of the Fisherman’s Friends, Jim (James Purefoy). Rather predictably, but no less charming, as Danny gets to know the group, the town and the history behind their music, his motives become more honourable and he becomes a lot more invested in their success.
The first half of the film seems to focus on the fishermen themselves, their way of life and their sense of community; the early starts to bring the catch in, their roles as lifeguard men, their Cornish patriotism. All sprinkled with a harmonious sea shanty or two. Their sense of tradition and subtle disdain for tourists provides the backdrop for a lot of the humour in the film, mainly at the expense of Danny, the proverbial fish out of water. And as someone who lives near a seaside town, this type of humour is totally relatable to me.
The second half of the film seems to lose its heart a bit though. There are fewer musical scenes, fishing appears to have taken a back seat and rather fortunately, no one needs rescuing from the sea. Whilst the quest to secure a record deal is still underway, the focus shifts to the (fabricated) romantic relationship which leads very nicely to a perfect bow ending, sealed with the obligatory kiss. I understand that when dealing with real life events in movies, there is always an element of artistic licence and, in this instance, a romantic comedy would probably do better than an underdog story. Don’t let this put you off though because either way, this film has a lot of heart and will have you leaving the cinema with a smile of your face and a spring in your step.
Regardless of how familiar you are with the fisherman’s story or traditional sea shanty songs, everybody knows ‘What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor?’ and it gets its moment in the spotlight during one of my favourite scenes of the whole film. On a field trip to the Big City, the fishermen decide to try out a local pub or two, or three. When someone asks what a sea shanty is, the fishermen begin a rendition of the age-old song that soon has the entire pub and some in the cinema audience singing along.
This is quite a bold statement, but I feel that given time, Fisherman’s Friends has the potential to join the likes of Calendar Girls and The Full Monty as a classic British feel-good film. So if you need a little pick-me-up, then grab a friend and the popcorn and check this film out. Seen it? Let me know your thoughts.