Film Review – Fisherman’s Friends (2019)

ou be forgiven for looking at the trailer for the new British comedy from the makers of Finding Your Feet and thinking it was a load of old poppycock. As if a group of men over the age of 30 managed to not only be signed by a major record label but produced an album that would become a Top Ten smash? Well, it’s all very much true and lays the foundations for the film which, just as the sea shanties circle around your brain and their charms take hold, is is irresistibly infectious and the perfect antidote for “March madness” in Britain as Brexit draws ever closer but not at all clearer.

Port Isaac, Cornwall. The hippest of hip places to have a stag-do, which is exactly where Danny (Daniel Mays) and his music industry pals have gone to help send off their pal into matrimony with plenty of sea celebrations and seasonal ales to keep them entertained. On their departure day, they happen across a performance from the Fisherman’s Friends, a group of local men who perform sea shanties on the coastline for the locals – and who Danny believes have what it takes to get signed by a major label. It all feels like a prank to the singers, particularly the prickly Jim (James Purefoy), but Danny’s charm wins them over enough to put their songs to disc and unleash their talents on the world.

Almost immediately, Fisherman’s Friends feels like a warm, cozy blanket, wrapping you up tight and keeping you toasty and contented and while there’s a overly familiar feel that you have to deal with, there’s delights to be had. It’s a testament to director Chris Foggin (who made the underrated Kids in Love in 2016) and his writers that the film is as charming and funny as it is as the majority of the waters they choose to chart are uncharted, instead of relying heavily on it feeling commonplace. Indeed, as we have seen in any number of British films of similar ilk – and, frankly, done better – but it does just enough to endear itself to you, despite some big bumps in the road, namely Noel Clarke’s overly annoying record exec and his posse.

As it is, the film gets by thanks to some winning performances from its impressive cast, with everyone’s favourite “geezer in that movie” Mays terrific alongside Tuppence Middleton, who steals the film with her fiery turn as Alwyn, the object of Mays’ affections given her taste for music. Messrs Purefoy, Johns and Hayman are also good value and they, like the rest of the cast, seem to be having the time of their lives and that infectious energy does indeed rub off, even if it has dissipated quickly afterwards. There have been better, there have been worse, and Fisherman’s Friends sits somewhere in the middle of the “unlikely British talent” sub-genre. It’s not smooth sailing, but no-one will be getting sea sickness.

Scott J.Davis | [rating=3]

Comedy, Drama | UK, 2019 | 12A | 15th March 2019 (UK) | EFD Films | Dir.Chris Froggin | Daniel Mays, James Purefoy, Tuppence Middleton, David Hayman, Dave Johns, Noel Clarke,