By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
Although my knowledge of sea shanty songs is limited to “Drunken Sailor,” that didn’t keep me from absolutely loving the new movie “Fisherman’s Friends”
from director Chris Foggin
(“The World’s End”).
Don’t be deterred by the title. “Fisherman’s Friends” is one of the most charming and enjoyable romantic comedies I’ve seen so far this summer. The film, from screenwriters Piers Ashworth (“Blithe Spirit”), Meg Leonard (“Blithe Spirit”) and Nick Moorcroft (“Urban Hymn”) is loosely based on a true story about 10 shanty singing fisherman from Port Isaac, a small fishing village on the Atlantic coast of north Cornwall, England, United Kingdom.
Members of this rag-tag group range in age from 36-years-old, to 72. There’s no real group leader, but Jim (a terrific James Purefoy, TV’s “Pennyworth”) is probably the closest thing to one. He keeps the guys working hard and having fun. In addition to fishing for a living, Jim runs a bed-and-breakfast with his older daughter Alwyn (Tuppence Middleton, “The Imitation Game”) and her adorable little girl, Tamsyn (Meadow Nobrega, “Patrick The Pug”).
There’s a camaraderie among the singers and others from the village like Maggie (Maggie Steed, TV’s “Flack”) who serves up pints and good cheer at the local pub. It’s all about friendship first and music second here.
The singing fishermen are caught off guard when hotshot music executives Troy (a wonderful Noel Clarke, TV’s “Bulletproof”) and Danny (Daniel Mays, TV’s “Code 404”) blow into the quaint fishing town on vacation and catch the group singing just like they always do. Troy (Clarke) is the head honcho at Duke Music Management. His hardworking assistant Danny (Mays) knows talent and how to get them. So, he’s startled when Troy tells him he needs to sign this group to a contract right away. Danny isn’t all that impressed with the shanty fishermen but takes the task on headfirst.
The thing is Troy is just playing a prank on Danny and he has no interest in these old guys whatsoever. Danny has no clue and does what he does best. He charms many of the village people and even catches the eye of Alwyn (Middleton) in the process to get next the group. When he tells the group that they are amazing singers and he would like to sign them to a record deal, they fall out laughing.
They aren’t looking for fame or fortune. They sing because they like to sing. Danny persists that it could open a world of opportunities for them and before long they are laying down tracks in a recording studio and listening to his every word. Danny fills their heads with wild notions of being the next big thing. The old kids on the block.
It's too tempting for them to resist.
However, Danny kind of overpromises. He soon discovers that some of his other record label friends aren’t feeling those shanty vibes.
All it takes is one to bite and when a performance they have goes viral and makes quite a splash, things change fast. An old friend comes through for Danny and the Fisherman’s Friends are signed by Universal/Island Records and become an overnight sensation cracking the Top 10 in the UK with a hit sea shanty album, much to the surprise of Noah and the crew at Duke Music.
Remember, this was all supposed to be a joke. But these geezers got the last laugh. Watching the men adjust to their newfound fame is much of the fun of “Fisherman’s Friends” along with the film’s rock and pop music references.
And of course, there’s a love story brewing among the music. In the end after a bit of a dustup, Danny wins over Alwyn (Middleton) and her dad.
There hasn’t been a lot to laugh at lately, but “Fisherman’s Friends” will bring a smile to your face. It’s funny, inspiring, and comforting. It’s a great catch.
Check Out This Trailer For "FISHERMAN'S FRIENDS"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The Alliance Of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.