Displaying Lolita

The Bookshop

Director: Isabel Coixet

Cast: Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Patricia Clarkson, Honor Kneafsey, James Lance, Jorge Suquet, Hunter Tremayne, Frances Barber

Elegy and Endless Night Spanish director Isabel Coixet brings to the screen Penelope Fitzgerald’s poignant novel The Bookshop set in a small East Anglian town in 1959. The story centres around a relatively young widow Florence Greene wonderfully played by British actress Emily Mortimer (Mary Poppins Returns, The Sense of an Ending, Hugo, Shutter Island) who decides to open a book shop in this remote gossip ridden environment.

While naturally stocking the classics like Thackeray, Dickens and George Eliot, Mrs Greene decides to sell more controversial literature including Ray Bradbury’s dystopian classic Fahrenheit 451 and Vladimir Nabokov’s scandalous novel Lolita.

In a genteel correspondence with a mysterious reclusive bibliophile Edmund Brundish superbly played by British screen legend Bill Nighy (Their Finest, Pride, Wrath of the Titans), Florence gradually draws Brundish out of his reclusive liar as she continually sends him fascinating literary works.

However. like in many conservative small towns, the idea of a progressive bookshop which could disseminate radical ideas soon finds opposition amongst the townsfolk headed by the snobbish and influential Violet Gamart, played with menace and sophistication by Oscar nominee Patricia Clarkson (Pieces of April).

Violet’s wicked emissary is the slippery playboy Milo North played by James Lance (Bel Ami, Marie Antoinette) who ultimately betrays Florence Greene as slowly but surely each of the town’s inhabitant’s turns against her best literary endeavors.

The Bookshop is a slow moving poignant drama about a women’s wish to fill a lifelong dream and a community who finds repulsion their best way to combat any radical innovative changes such as a well-stocked and resourceful bookshop. Director Isabel Coixet displays her art house aesthetic in The Bookshop to comment incisively on the cruelty of a small English town which is just emerging out of the post-World War II shock and horror, only to find themselves not quite ready to embrace an innovative literary aesthetic, which eventually become fashionable in the 1960’s.

This film’s theatrical release was later in other parts of the world

Spanish director Isabel Coixet’s The Bookshop receives a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 and is a subtle portrait of narrow mindedness which will not give audiences that expected cathartic release that accompanies happy endings.

The Bookshop is recommended viewing for those that enjoy European Art House cinema even though this literary themed film is set in Britain.

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