Let me say this right at the outset: this is a movie for introverts. It has clearly been made by one, and the fact is that I loved it. The slow pace and leisurely landscape shots that others found so maddening are what captured me in the first place.
Our heroine, the long-widowed and quietly adventuresome Florence Green, arrives in a small English fishing village with the intent of opening a bookshop. It's 1959. Everyone knows everyone here, the social structures set in that peculiar English way where breathtaking savagery is perpetrated with correctness and studious politeness. So it is that Florence is met with immediate resistance by the local queen bee, one Mrs. Gamart. This formidable lady- enormously wealthy, influential, and impeccably coiffed and lacquered at all times, desires the Old House that Florence has earmarked to be converted to an 'arts center.'
And that is all the plot there is. Yet somehow, I found myself captivated. Partly because of the lack of glitz or hi-tech anywhere in sight. No cleverness, not even any particular message. Just a small story of an outsider in an insulated, hierarchical and ancient society; an ordinary woman trying to realize a dream; people's weakness, their motivations, their tenderness and courage. The English landscape is captured in all its moodiness here, the seaside winds whipping fields of grass and the blooming purple flowers (larkspur?) at the old Holt House lovely in their melancholy.
Ultimately, the film manages to transport you deep into its world. All sorts of characters walk in and out. There is a formidable foe to deal with. Many cups of tea are drunk. An unlikely ally emerges, there's even a tender moment of almost-romance that vanishes as soon as it's about to happen. In the end, heartbreak, tempered by a look into a hopeful future.
Yet, the film will be dismissed by many because of its lack of dazzle. Slow pace, long conversations. I suppose it all comes down to how you like your movies. If like me, one prefers them small and intimate, it's a gem. If not, it's too dull for your appreciation, and you will want to throw one of Florence's books at her. I wanted to be Florence, and The Bookshop is one of my favorites of this year.