Chris Foggin’s Fisherman’s Friends is a rather formulaic, yet oddly disarming romantic comedy starring Daniel Mays, Tuppence Middleton and James Purefoy. Set in Port Isaac and loosely based on the real life story of a group of ageing, sea shanty-singing fishermen from Cornwall, the film tells the story of how the group hit the big time after being accidentally discovered by a big shot London talent scout, and eventually scoring a top 10 hit with their first album. The real life fishermen from the story, in fact, went on to perform at Glastonbury and even played at the Queen’s jubilee in 2012.
When record label agent Danny (Mays) is dragged kicking and screaming to spend a stag weekend in Cornwall with his boss Troy (Noel Clarke) and two other colleagues, he has no idea what awaits him. After a chance meeting with a group of singing fishermen, Danny is teased by his boss to sign the group as a joke, but the longer he stays in the charming fishing village of Port Isaac, the more he grows attached to its people, especially to single mother Alwyn (Middleton) whose disapproving and eternally taciturn father Jim (Purefoy) is harbouring a secret heartbreak and a deep dislike for outsiders like Danny.
Things come to a head when our hapless hero is told to choose between his job at the record label or his new friends, which makes him even more determined to help them get signed. Amongst the mayhem, Danny learns to enjoy the simpler things in life and soon finds his old city life to be far less fulfilling than the precious moments he spends at Alwyn’s B&B getting to know her and her daughter and hoping to one day win her father Jim over.
Foggin offers a decidedly flawed romantic comedy which, hard as it might tries, never quite manages to ring true. And while the vision of Cornwall offered here can be more than reminiscent of Bill Forsyth’s romantic view of Scotland in the brilliant Local Hero (1982), in reality, this vision of Cornwall is a million miles away from anything anyone who has spent any amount of time in the region would recognise.
Mays, as good as he is, is still unable to make this into more than just a charming if utterly mindless bit of fluff. While Middleton is sadly saddled with a rather boring part which never quite allows us to get to know her character fully. For his part, Purefoy can’t be faulted in his depiction of the brooding taciturn Jim, it is just a shame that more wasn’t made of what made him into that sort of a man.
Tonally, the film can’t quite decide where it wants to take the story, but on the whole we soon find ourselves more than happy to plod along to this ludicrous, yet utterly charming story. Which let’s face it, only works if you’re prepared to completely suspend disbelief.
Fisherman’s Friends is in cinemas from Friday March 15th