Fisherman’s Friends ★★★★

There aren't many films about Cornish folk groups achieving major career success, and that niche subject is the focus here. There are certain ingredients you might expect considering its setting: beautiful views, likeable characters, and a family friendly vibe. The issue here, though, is that it's too easy to hew close to genre expectations. How bold is it?

It takes the questionable tack of fictionalising things. The focus is on Danny (Daniel Mays), a cynical, love repulsed music executive who, when on a stag do, is tasked by his boss of signing sea shanty singers Fisherman's Friends. It's broadly unsurprising where the film goes from here as his life begins to centre around this tightly knit group.

One of the attractions of such a film is the setting, Cornwall being well known as a beautiful destination. This is, as per reality, set in the picturesque fishing village of Port Isaac, which some will recognise from long-running dramedy series Doc Martin. The beautiful skies, sea, hills, and old, uneven buildings certainly help form a tranquil atmosphere.

There are plenty of warm, atmosphere-inducing performances, too, but the highlight has to be that given by Daniel Mays. He makes for a protagonist who's easy to identify with thanks to an honest, underplayed transformation into a gentle individual. He gives the film its core and shows pertinently the power of community.

Outside of that there aren't individual performances that are very memorable, even the great James Purefoy unable to stand out. Purefoy's Jim exemplifies most characters: a creation who feels honestly human but is nevertheless made of broad strokes and a broad accent. This lack of individuality actually helps create a sense of charming camaraderie.

It's certainly not a hefty, character-driven, social realist drama. It doesn't have significant twists and turns in its simple, fairly predictable story, focusing on the minutae of pints at the pub, shanties sung on the sea, dancing to records in the living room. The strongest thing about the film is it making you feel like you're in its world, one that you'll learn to quietly appreciate.

It may perhaps find some appeal, in some quarters, for its lack of event. It is a slight subversion of the artificially tense drama often found in these populist biopics, making for a serene and homely watch befitting of its subject. It is, in its unique and questionably successful manner, a reasonably bold experience.

There's a sweet message that is put forward through this particular structure, and that's, unsurprisingly, of how community is all. You feel that this concept has been threaded from every aspect of the film, and to have such a wholesome message being the driving force is quite refreshing in cynical, exhausting times.

The weakest part of the film is that it does unfortunately seem far too emotionally quiet. The truth is played with fast and loose which should mean plenty of chances to stir emotions, particularly considering the film's heightened reality, but this opportunity is never seized upon. It's a waste of immense potential to not use such perfect building blocks for a more affecting work.

It's a fun, breezy, feelgood flick, and certainly fit enough at least to make it an entertaining Sunday watch. It may, however, disappoint a few who are expecting something more energetically inspiring. A disappointing experience in some ways but, regardless of its immediate impact, unquestionably one that lingers sweetly in memory.