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The Bookshop 2017

The Bookshop | La librería | Der Buchladen der Florence Green

The Bookshop-La libreria-Der Buchladen der Florence Green

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About The Bookshop 💬

''A good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life, and as such it must surely be a necessary commodity.''

Penelope Fitzgerald - The Bookshop

  • Based on the novel by Penelope Fitzgerald.

England, 1959. In a small East Anglian town, Florence Green decides, against polite but ruthless local opposition, to open a bookshop.

  • A conservative town, a book shop and a decided woman...

A free-spirited widow Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) risks everything to open a bookshop in a conservative East Anglian coastal town. While bringing about a surprising cultural awakening through works by Ray Bradbury and Vladimir Nabokov, she earns the polite but ruthless opposition of a local grand dame (Patricia Clarkson) and the support and affection of a reclusive book loving widower (Bill Nighy).

  • A town that lacks a bookshop isn't always a town that wants one.

As Florence's obstacles amass and bear suspicious signs of a local power struggle, she is forced to ask: is there a place for a bookshop in a town that may not want one?


I read the Penelope Fitzgerald novel, almost ten years ago, during a particularly cold summer in the British Isles. Reading the book was a true revelation: I felt totally transported to 1959 and I truly believed I was, in a way, the naïve, sweet and idealistic Florence Green. In fact, I am. I feel deeply connected with this character in a way I have never felt with the main characters of my other movies.

People take chances every day. Big chances, little chances, dangerous or safe: and most of them go unnoticed. But what happens when they are noticed? And how does it reflect the current world we all inhabit?

There is something heroic in the character of Florence Green, something simple and familiar. She is putting herself out there, and for no other reason than a desire to open a bookshop. She neither cares about nor seeks any support in her surroundings. She just pulls up her socks and gets to it. As a result, Florence Green gets noticed.

Here is where it gets interesting. This quiet woman, in a quiet village, in very quiet post-war England, is a call to everyone to grow up and claim responsibility for making life better for us all. This is an allegory for the underdog before there was someone there to root for them or make them believe in themselves. Florence is not the person usually in the lead. There are others that play that role, and they do not like being usurped. Florence's actions actually shine a light on her social leaders' inaction, and so engage their ire. But Florence shows gumption: she soldiers on even after several warnings.

Florence represents so many worlds that interest me as a filmmaker - she is a woman with a vision - a vision that not everyone in her village shares. Florence is doing something new. She sees an opportunity to fill a void. There is no bookstore in her town. Florence's hubris is the belief that this is a town that wants a bookstore as much as Florence thinks it does. She is taking a chance, and some of her contemporaries will go to extreme levels to cut her down to size. Florence takes on the powerful social elite without even realizing she has done so. Florence gets support from the Old Guard, or the ''true'' leadership or her village, but is it enough? She reminds me of the first round of electric cars. She is a little voice with a giant idea. Whereas the powers against Florence are the pushy people on the freeway that always shove the slower driver out of the way, her triumphs are the gorgeous afternoons when we witness their arrest.

In the original text, there is a steady reference to the power of the sea and the mention of damp, or mold, in a house, and the general desirability of an interior space based on its ability to stay dry. This translates almost perfectly to the state of our characters' minds. I love the challenge of showing Florence as a burst of fresh air challenging the musty ideas of her small town. Her social rival, Mrs. Gamart, is the queen of mold - she uses the musty paperwork-ridden government to block Florence's path, and keeps injecting the moldy and sticky character of Milo North into Florence's company, and he lingers, but cannot conquer, not until he finds a hiding place in the physical structure of the bookshop.

The balance of this film will lie in the layers of the various skirmishes Florence must get through in her small society. Those skirmishes tally up the battles and those battles make up the war.

As we witness her establishing herself, and the decisions she makes to move forward, we must also see the wave effect of that drop in the pond and how she affects those around her. And, although Florence does not win the war, she makes an impact on a few people that may or may not have powerful actions to take on in their own futures.

In the end is the sweet dull pain of inevitability. The fires of resistance need oxygen to survive. Water continues to flow and, as mold finds its way into a structure and tears it down, it washes away history. Each side must be vigilant in self-maintenance. The war against Florence results in nothing all that impactful. We are all human again, full ''of sound and fury, signifying nothing.'' Florence loses her battle, but has she inspired the next generation of warriors? My mission is to show that Florence has indeed inspired us all to take up the good fight.

Isabel Coixet


THE BOOKSHOP is a feature film based on the homonymous novel by Penelope Fitzgerald, a subtle tragicomedy telling the story of Florence, a woman who takes on an enormous challenge: to set up and run a bookshop in a small English town. The story relates the difficulties and obstacles that Florence encounters in the process: ignorance, envy, and the false morals of a township that will irremediably bring an end to her dream.

The story has a strong cultural value in that its plot is essentially a parable of the dangers and difficulties facing the world of literature and the written word today as it confronts an ignorant and uncultured bureaucratic society driven by money and rivalry. If the written word as we know it were to disappear, all the cultural and social values, all the values of knowledge, would disappear with it. We have all witnessed how, in our own towns, long-established bookshops have been disappearing, devoured by the machinery of a society that seems not to need books. This film brings into the spotlight this silent, incessant and ultimate disappearance, the consequences of which are no less grave and catastrophic than the destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria.

The film is also an entreaty for freedom of expression and a direct attack upon all the many forms of ignorance and censorship. The publication of an edition of Nabokov's famous Lolita will provide the perfect excuse to bring Florence's bookshop down, revealing the unequivocally hypocritical morals that demonize and condemn any argument that fails to reaffirm the spiel of its false and dictatorial code of conduct. In short, the film is also a tribute to freedom of expression and plurality of opinion and perspective.

Along with these values, the film also narrates Florence's own personal struggle. She is a kind of Phoenix, attempting to rebuild herself following the death of her husband. A strong, intelligent, mature female character driven by, and thanks to, her emotions, who will give all she’s got to build up a cultural enterprise simply as an act of love for her lost companion, expecting nothing in return but spiritual solace. Her antagonists, on the other hand, will want to wrest her project from her, to create another, better than hers, to achieve money and acclaim. This struggle exemplifies a phenomenon seen too often today whereby culture fosters not the most intrinsically worthy artistic works but those of an opportunistic or spectacular nature promising viability and big profits. Once again, spurning the curative, regenerative, educative and unfathomable possibilities that culture and art provide in and of themselves.

This film exudes a love of books and literature from every pore. A pure and eternal love for reading that ought to be transmitted from generation to generation. Hence it is that our protagonist, despite failing in her endeavor, is, in the end, able to transmit that passion to Christine, a child who represents the future of a world that must not turn its back on books. After all, who can preserve the existence of literature if not the upcoming generations that a priori have no interest in it? Literature and the novel are in the hands of those who now are young and it is in our hands to educate them so they don't forsake the written word. The film thus ends on an optimistic note reflecting this idea through a regenerative sequence in which, in the end, culture is transmitted from one generation to the next and builds a better world, in turn validating Christine's role as narrator. In a call to the younger members of the audience, it is she who transmits those values to the new generation. Added to that, a young character playing an important supporting role in the film may act to draw this sector of the viewing public to cinemas.

The Bookshop Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Isabel Coixet

Writing Credits

Isabel Coixet (Screenplay)

Penelope Fitzgerald (Novel)


Emily Mortimer

Bill Nighy

Patricia Clarkson

Reg Wilson

Honor Kneafsey

Lucy Tillett

Toby Gibson

Harvey Bennett

Jorge Suquet

James Lance

Charlotte Vega

Michael Fitzgerald

Frances Barber

Nigel O'Neill

Karen Ardiff

Hunter Tremayne

Mary O'Driscoll

Music by

Alfonso de Vilallonga

Cinematography by

Jean-Claude Larrieu

Genre: Drama

Countries: United Kingdom, Spain, Germany

The Bookshop Official Trailer

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