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Emily Mortimer

“THE BOOKSHOP” My rating: B

113 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

“The Bookshop” is an insidious bit of bait and switch.

As it starts out a viewer is confident that he or she is entering familiar territory.  In 1959 a war widow opens a bookshop in  picturesque British coastal town.

So this is going to be a feel-good movie about the power of literature to illuminate gray lives, right? And the lady storeowner will undoubtedly find romance with one of the locals…maybe a handsome fisherman?

Also, our  heroine sells controversial books like Nabokov’s Lolita. So the film will depict the conflict between the local blue noses and everybody else’s right to read, eh?

Uh, no.

Isabel Coixet’s film, adapted from Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel, is much darker than that.  Here the common man is something less than noble and the good guys shouldn’t expect to win.

All might have gone swimmingly had Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) not chosen as the site of her new book shop the long-abandoned  Old House, a historic structure fallen on hard times. She buys the place at bargain prices, installs shelves and orders crates of books.

She hires Christine (Honor Kneafsey), the child of local laborers, as her after-school assistant.

And she cultivates the attentions of the  eccentric  town hermit, Edmund (Bill Nighy), a voracious reader living in a slowly decaying mansion. He’s this movie’s version of Miss Havisham.

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