Arts

Film review: Fisherman's Friends a crabs-to-riches fairytale based on real events

Sam Swainsbury, James Purefoy, Dave Johns and David Hayman in Fisherman's Friends
Damon Smith

A TRUE-life story of musical success against the odds inspires director Chris Foggin's feelgood fish-out-of-water drama comedy.

Scripted by Nick Moorcroft, Meg Leonard and Piers Ashworth, Fisherman's Friends takes considerable artistic licence with the remarkable rise of eight men from Port Isaac in Cornwall, who signed a record deal in 2010 and became the first traditional folk act to land a top 10 album in the UK charts.

The group subsequently performed for the queen at the 2012 Jubilee celebrations and brought their haunting sea shanties to the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury. They continue to raise funds for charity and released a fourth collection of bawdy songs last year, punningly titled Sole Mates.

Foggin's film trawls for the essence of the crabs-to-riches fairytale and delivers a decent haul of laughter and sentiment interspersed with foot-stomping musical performances.

Some of the cast's Cornish accents are, frankly, lost at sea and a lukewarm central romance across the cultural divide is hastily engineered to provide the film with one female voice to counter the macho posturing.

London-based music executive Danny (Daniel Mays) heads to Cornwall on a boozy stag weekend with his boss Troy (Noel Clarke), colleague Driss (Vahid Gold) and boorish groom-to-be Henry (Christian Brassington). Their drunken antics on paddle boards lead to a lifeboat rescue manned by local fisherman Jim (James Purefoy) and his pals.

"Once you cross the (River) Tamar, you're not in England any more. We're a land apart," explains Jim, who is fiercely proud of his Cornish heritage.

During their time in Port Isaac, the stag party witness locals singing sea shanties in the harbour and Troy jokingly suggests Danny should offer the swarthy fishermen a record deal because their repertoire is "copyright-free songs".

Danny falls hook, line and sinker for Troy's prank and records Jim, Jago (David Hayman), Rowan (Sam Swainsbury), Leadville (Dave Johns) and the rest of the group in a local church, where acoustics are perfect.

As Danny spends quality time in the close-knit village, he nurtures a crush on Jim's daughter Alwyn (Tuppence Middleton), whose primary concern is her daughter Tamsyn (Meadow Nobrega).

The jaded executive cannot remain in Cornwall forever. When the time comes to court record labels, the fishermen don sunglasses to resemble "Reservoir Sea Dogs" and accompany Danny to the bright lights of London.

Fisherman's Friends hauls up a familiar catch of friendship, betrayal, redemption and self-analysis, shot on location in picturesque Cornwall.

Mays brings a likeability to his world-weary corporate lackey, who is gifted a new lease of life through personal ties to a band that values community and tradition before celebrity and fortune.

Supporting characters are sketched in broad strokes, diminishing the emotional impact of one scene that brings the villagers together in a time of sombre reflection.

FISHERMAN'S FRIENDS (12A, 112 mins) Drama/Comedy/Musical/Romance. Daniel Mays, Tuppence Middleton, James Purefoy, David Hayman, Sam Swainsbury, Dave Johns, Noel Clarke, Christian Brassington, Vahid Gold, Meadow Nobrega. Director: Chris Foggin

RATING: 6/10

Released: March 15 (UK & Ireland)

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