Fisherman’s Friends

Posted: April 18, 2019 in Film reviews
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Directed by Chris Foggin. Starring Daniel Mays, James Purefoy and Tuppence Middleton.

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When jaded music exec Danny (Mays) accompanies his friends on a stag weekend Cornwall, the group chance upon an acapella male singing group composed of fisherman living in the scenic village of Port Isaac. The group sing sea shanties and May’s boss, Troy (Noel Clarke sporting a slightly odd accent) convinces Danny that the group could be a hit, and leaves him behind in Port Isaac to sign them up.

Little realising that Troy is playing a prank, Danny begins to try and woo the group, called the Fisherman’s Friends, but this doesn’t prove easy, especially when one of their number, Jim (Purefoy) is a cantankerous sort who distrusts outsiders. Danny perseveres and takes up residence in the bed and breakfast run by Jim’s daughter Alwyn (Middleton).

Initially disdainful of village life, Danny grows fond of Port Isaac and Alwyn, but can he get the girl and make Fisherman’s Friends a hit against all the odds?

Well, what do you think?

At the beginning the film happily informs you that this is based on a true story, and it is, up to a point, although quite a bit of artistic licence has been taken because as far as I can tell there were no burned out record execs involved, but hey it said based on, right.

Fisherman’s Friends can be viewed as a heart-warming tale of adversity and unlikely success, or as a cynical and cheesy attempt to cash in on a heart-warming tale of adversity and unlikely success, and how you react to the film might depend on which side of the fence you fall. For me I think the film, at times, manages to be both. It’s machine tooled to tug your heartstrings, and successful city boy learns to appreciate a simpler life is hardly an original story, nor is band of ordinary blokes become a success (just replace the sea shanties with brass bands or male stripping) and yet somehow Fisherman’s Friends enchanted me more than it annoyed me.

Maybe it’s a good cast, solid direction, a decent script and great locations, or maybe it just caught me on the right day, but I liked it.

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Mays makes for a slightly unlikely romantic lead, but he does dodgy wide-boy and befuddled man child equally well, and his romance with Alwyn feels natural. Middleton sells the stubborn single mum to a tee, even if you sort of wish she’d been given a bit more to do, but she has nice interplay with both Mays and Purefoy, and really in many ways Purefoy is the star of the show as the grizzled and grumpy alpha male of the Fisherman’s Friends. The rest of the cast are good and the actual Fisherman’s Friends all cameo which lends authenticity to the musical numbers.

Yes it’s predictable, yes it jettisons realism in favour of noble Cornish stereotypes, and yes it’s probably a touch too long—it does drag a little which given the running time is a little worrying—with a few scenes that could have easily been trimmed, but it’s heart’s in the right place, its cast are engaging and it made me laugh far more than I expected it to.

I just have one question…

What should we do with the drunken sailor?

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