THE STORY – Ten fisherman from Cornwall achieve a Top 10 hit after they are signed to Universal Records by a cynical London music executive.
THE CAST – Daniel Mays, James Purefoy, David Hayman, Dave Johns, Sam Swainsbury, Tuppence Middleton & Noel Clarke
THE TEAM – Chris Foggin (Director), Nick Moorcroft, Meg Leonard & Piers Ashworth (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 112 Minutes
By Nicole Ackman
“Fisherman’s Friends” is the definition of a comfort movie. This British rom-com features a sweet story about community and an idyllic seaside town full of characters you can’t help but love. Directed by Chris Foggin, the film is based on the true story of Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends, a group of small-town singers who could never have dreamed of the success they would find.
The story, written by Nick Moorcroft, Meg Leonard, and Piers Ashworth, is about a group of Cornish fishermen who get signed by Universal Records and manage to achieve a Top 10 hit with their first album of traditional sea shanties. While it takes some creative liberties, including creating the character of Londoner and music manager, Danny (Daniel Mays), through whom the audience meets the people of the town, it’s saved from seeming twee by being rooted in truth.
The film is somewhat predictable and has a lot of classic tropes found in movies set in the countryside. (Yes, there’s a bit with Danny struggling to find phone reception.) In some ways, it has the same feel and message as a Hallmark Christmas movie in which a person from the city goes to a small town and undergoes a transformation, redefines their values, and is embraced by the local community. It also features a romance between Danny and a local single mother which perhaps moves too quickly to be believable. And yet, it’s easy to get swept up in the charm of the film and to appreciate its basis in truth.
Part of that charm can be attributed to it being set and largely filmed in gorgeous Cornwall. The film has a very British feel to it from its filming locations in Port Isaac and London to the plotline about one of the singers being worried about having to sell the village pub which he can no longer afford to run. There are lots of great shots of both the coast and the delightfully quaint town itself. The sea shanties sung throughout the film also give it a warm and cozy feeling and “Widow Woman” is a particularly beautiful song. For those who enjoy folk and traditional music, they’re sure to be excited about the soundtrack.
The film has a large cast of characters and takes on too many storylines to fully develop many of them. Mays plays Danny, the Londoner, and has the best character arc as he falls in love both with Alwyn and the whole community. Tuppence Middleton is very endearing as Alwyn and her chemistry with Mays helps elevate the film. James Purefoy plays her father, Jim, who is one of the members of Fisherman’s Friends. His performance is easily the best in the film. All of the men in the group do a great job of making their camaraderie feel natural and tangible.
For anyone who has been forced by quarantine to reconsider their priorities, “Fisherman’s Friends” is sure to make a connection. It’s a sweet British comfort movie that will make you want to visit Port Isaac, where the real group still performs today; but while you’re still stuck at home, it does a great job of transporting you to the quaint seaside town.
The film was released in the UK last year but comes out On Demand and digital July 24, 2020.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – A warm and charming film based on a true story bolstered by a handful of good performances. It’s the definition of a “comfort film.”
THE BAD – It’s somewhat predictable and juggles a lot of storylines.