The Bookshop (2017)

The Bookshop
Director: Isabel Coixet
Writer: Isabel Coixet
Based on: Penelope Fitzgerald‘s novel
Cast: Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Hunter Tremayne, Honor Kneafsey, Michael Fitzgerald, Frances Barber, Reg Wilson, James Lance, Patricia Clarkson
Seen on: 22.5.2018

Plot:
Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) needs a fresh start after her husband’s death. She moves to a small town on the coast and opens a bookshop there. Unwittinlgy she disrupts the local politics with her opening – the powerful Violet Gamart (Patricia Clarkson) had set the sights on her shop. Florence manages to gain the trust and appreciation of a local few – like Edmund Brundish (Bill Nighy) regardless. But her bold choice to promote Nabokov’s Lolita at her store, causes quite an upheaval in town.

I expected The Bookshop to be this romantic, cute film and it does start that way. But then it suddenly throws so much sadness in your face that I could barely handle it. You should definitely be prepared for that.

Film poster showing Emily Mortimer leaning against the wall of a book store.
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Learning to Drive (2014)

Learning to Drive
Director: Isabel Coixet
Writer: Sarah Kernochan
Based on: the article by Katha Pollitt
Cast: Patricia Clarkson, Ben Kingsley, Grace Gummer, Jake Weber, Sarita Choudhury, John Hodgman, Samantha Bee, Avi Nash
Seen on: 10.8.2015

Plot:
Wendy’s (Patricia Clarkson) husband Ted (Jake Weber) just left her, which came as a complete surprise to her. Wendy is slowly losing herself in despair, she barely has any social contacts and her daughter Tasha (Grace Gummer) works on a farm in Connecticut. But if Wendy learned how to drive, she could visit her. So when chance brings Darwan (Ben Kingsley) to her doorstep who happens to be a driving instructor, she goes for it. But it turns out that Darwan can teach her much more than just to drive.

Learning to Drive was nice, though I didn’t care for the romantic angle or for the occasional bouts of orientalism in it.

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Very Sad and Very Beautiful

Elegy is a film by Isabel Coixet, who brought us The Secret Life of Words two years ago, so it was not surprising for me that Elegy was really good. It is based on the novel The Dying Animal by Philip Roth (actually the third novel in a series revolving around David Kepesh), though I like Elegy as a title better.

The story is about aging professor David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley), who lives from fling to fling with his students, after a rather painful divorce 30 odd years ago. In one of his lectures he meets Consuela Castillo (Penélope Cruz), with whom he begins an affair. Despite of the warnings from his best friend, George O’Hearn (Dennis Hopper), David falls in love with Consuela, but can’t really change his ways. For example, he continues to see Carolyn (Patricia Clarkson), his fuck buddy. At the same time, the worn and difficult relationship he has with his son Kenneth (Peter Sarsgaard) gets tested in new ways.

As mentioned before, the movie is really very good. And it was so nice to see Ben Kingsley act again. I mean, really act, as in playing a believable character. Altogether, the acting was perfect, especially Patricia Clarkson, and more surprisingly Dennis Hopper.

The story is sad, there’s not much of a consolation to be had, anywhere. Which is why I think that Elegy is the better title (if the book is similar to the movie, which I don’t know, because I haven’t read it yet). It’s also hopelessly romantic, but in a very realistic way.

It definitely made me want to read the book, because of the wonderful narrative passages (which I think are direct quotes). And that’s always a good sign.