Fisherman's Friends

 

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The true story of a reluctant boyband of sea shanty singers comes off as a Half-Full Monty.

   

Fisherman's Friends

Local heroes: Sam Swainsbury, James Purefoy, Dave Johns and David Hayman 

 

Ready for another feel-good tale from the vaults of the stranger-than-fiction bank? Life is full of unlikely narratives and the last provincial outsiders pitted against the bigger world cropped up in the engaging and frequently hilarious Fighting With My Family. Now we have ten fishermen who are made to believe that they have what it takes to cut an album. It all starts when a quartet of slick London music executives are stranded in a Cornish backwater during a stag weekend. These cocky, supercilious buffoons are crueller than most and leave one of their number behind to fend for himself. Danny Anderson (Daniel Mays) is a natural flimflam artist but is completely out of his element in Port Isaac, a windswept village with poor mobile reception and a pub that doesn’t serve lager. In a world of fishermen and sea dogs, Danny is definitely a fish out of water. He’s also the butt of a practical joke: he’s been told that if he doesn’t sign up the local sea shanty choristers, he won’t be allowed back to the office. And so he has to use the last drop of his guile to convince these unworldly old salts to commit to a non-existent record deal…

 

If you can recall the hotshot American oil executive in Local Hero (1983), then you’ll be in the right port. But the naturalism and charm that Bill Forsyth brought to that 1983 classic is woefully lacking here. Instead, a formulaic and plodding screenplay falls back on all the old tropes, serving up the usual crusty caricatures, a predictable but implausible love story (did they have to?) and a number of cheesy set pieces. The film reaches its nadir when our salty protagonists take over a London pub and egg on the entire clientele into a rousing rendition of ‘What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor?’ Plausibility is not the film’s strong suit and there are enough clichés to pack an industrial trawler.

 

While the accents slide all over the shop, there are some creditable turns, though. James Purefoy is surprisingly good as the group’s ostensible skipper who, in spite of his chiselled good looks, is allowed to play a grandfather, as well as the father of the film’s ingénue, a feisty Tuppence Middleton. Less convincing are Danny’s corporate colleagues who look and behave like grown-up versions of The Inbetweeners. And as Danny, Daniel Mays trots out his usual Essex Boy shtick and proves a rather unengaging anti-hero ripe for his moral redemption. The film might have worked as a cosy TV movie, but on the big screen the coarse digital photography lacks texture and the Cornish landscape is deprived of its true grandeur. Even so, the true story itself is extraordinary enough to engage our interest – if not our emotions.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Daniel Mays, James Purefoy, David Hayman, Dave Johns, Sam Swainsbury, Tuppence Middleton, Noel Clarke, Maggie Steed, Meadow Nobrega, Vahid Gold, Jade Anouka, Mae Voogd, Christopher Villiers, Jo Hart, Christian Brassington, Sarah Winter, Ken Drury.

 

Dir Chris Foggin, Pro Nick Moorcroft, Meg Leonard and James Spring, Screenplay Nick Moorcroft, Meg Leonard and Piers Ashworth, Ex Pro Barnaby Thompson, Ph Simon Tindall, Pro Des Hannah Purdy Foggin, Ed Johnny Daukes, Music Rupert Christie.

 

Powder Keg Pictures/Fred Films-Entertainment Film Distributors.

111 mins. UK. 2019. Rel: 15 March 2019. Cert. 12A.