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Putting the corn in Cornwall in Fisherman’s Friends

15 March, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Daniel Mays, front, and the cast of Fisherman’s Friends

FISHERMAN’S FRIENDS
Directed by Chris Foggin
Certificate PG
☆☆☆

THERE is something fairly sinister under the flim-flam and piffle that coats this yarn based on a wonderful true story.

It represents a boil wash of a culture, a sad indictment of the homogenisation of music, and uses a lazy approach to storytelling.

The truly lovely, quirky tale of a group of fishermen who got together to sing traditional songs and became globally renowned has enough poetry and beauty in it to stand on its own two feet.

It doesn’t need a series of crass stereotypes, rom-com sidelines and cheesy nonsense poured over it to get it on screen. All of that detracts from the real story of the Port Isaac fishermen.

We meet Danny (Daniel Mays, on good form despite the material) as he heads to Cornwall on a stag-do with his vile “friends”, all big-shots in the music industry and as horrendously poor caricatures as you can imagine.

He is told to try and sign up a choir they hear singing on the beach – but it is a joke played on him by his supposed mates as part of the stag-do banter.

Lo and behold, he realises that the choir are actually brilliant. He also manages to fall in love with B&B-owning single mum Alwyn (Tuppence Middleton).

We follow them all through obvious potholes on the road to recording glory, sandwiched between lame jokes and telegraphed twists, the course of true love not running smooth, etc, etc.

The shanties they sing are folk stories of our shared nautical heritage. They deserve wider exposure – and their accessible beauty is shown by the fact the songs of the choir of Port Isaac have sold around the world.

This makes the lazy story tricks in this film even more galling: unoriginal plot developments abound – from the swanky record producer coming from the glitzy world of London to learn something about himself with the help of the “simpler” people of Cornwall.

There is even a community boozer that needs to be saved from the smarmy rich folk. It is condescending, rather than a genuine attempt to tell a lovely tale of what happened when a group of fishermen’s talent for communal singing was picked up.

The Fisherman’s Friends are a brilliant group and seeing them live is a splendid experience. While all the actors are game – it is hardly their fault they have some second-rate jokes to try and squeeze a laugh from, and the music is nice enough – you can’t help but feel their story deserves something better than this.

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