By Jonathan Reed
Video supplied by EFDF Films©
Throughout British film history, we have seen the occasional story of ordinary people placed into extraordinary circumstances. From Brassed Off to The Full Monty, we Brits love the type of films which we can see, not only ourselves in, but also our own communities. The latest addition to these “working class” stories is Fishermen’s Friends.
Set in the sleepy Cornish village of Port Isaac, the film tells the unlikely but real-life story of a group of fishermen whose seaside Shanty’s capture the attention and hearts of the nation. Danny (Daniel Mays), a brash A&R man, is charged to sign the questionable band unknowingly as a practical joke. However, the longer he spends with the charismatic fishermen, the more he is bewitched by them – and hotelier Alwyn (Tuppence Middleton).
Director Chris Foggin successfully creates a film which hones in on the importance of community, a theme which is at the centre throughout. With the potential selling of the local pub, a staple of the unity between the residents of Port Isaac, it is here where the drama is tied to, and where the greatest communal test is faced.
But amongst the drama is humour and genuine warmth. It is hard to not feel as though you know these fishermen, as if at some point you’ve met your own version of each character. And that relatability is down to the exceptional performances from the cast. James Purefoy is wonderful as Jim, a no-nonsense fisherman seen as the Patriarch of the group. Daniel May and Tuppence Middleton have believable chemistry and showcase a sincere love story which effectively doesn’t overtake the entire plot.
But, it is the performance of David Hayman as Jago, who warmly and emotively captures the heart of the film. He is the moral compass, the calming influence with a cheeky streak of naughtiness that instantly makes you fall in love with him. And even towards the end of the film, without revealing any spoilers, his presence is strongly felt.
Another “character” which must be mentioned and praised is Cornwall itself. The coastline is breath-taking and easily transports you into the simple yet fulfilling lives of the small fishing port. There is a certain romantic element to the golden sunsets and crashing waves against the rocks which beautifully capture the imagination.
And amongst this stunning backdrop is perfectly timed humour which keeps you laughing along with the madness of these Fishermen’s journey. From them hilariously singing the Cornish Anthem on ‘This Morning’ instead of the UK’s National one, to Jago referring to himself as “Irish rock singer, Bonio” (he meant Bono), the jokes never fall flat. And the same can be said for the film in its entirety.
Fishermen’s Friends could be described as many things, ‘a-fish-out-of-water comedy’ (no pun intended), a heart-warming feel-good film. It is true, the movie is all these things, but beneath the Cornish skin is an emotive, relatable story which reminds you of the safety and importance of community. We can all get caught up in the search for success and greed but sometimes the simplest existences can be the most rewarding. That is the essence of Fishermen’s Friends; that whether fame or fortune comes knocking at your porthole, it won’t mean anything compared to the Fishermen you sing your Shanty’s with.