Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 52 minutes, Directors – Meg Leonard, Nick Moorcroft
As the success of their debut album and national tour settles in, and a new member being welcomed in, the shanty-singing Fisherman’s Friends find tensions rising within their group and personal lives.
2019’s Fisherman’s Friends was very much a conventional silver-cinema-leaning feature which likely used a “feel good” pull quote in large letters on the poster. It certainly wasn’t for everyone, myself included to some extent, but it clearly worked for a large enough audience to become a hit and warrant a, rather unexpected, sequel. We almost pick up where we left off with the sea shanty-singing group enjoying the success of their top-ten charting debut album and a national tour. However, on returning to the quiet life of Port Isaac, Cornwall tensions begin to rise. Not just within the group, but also in their personal lives.
Primarily we follow leader Jim (James Purefoy) still grieving the loss of his father (David Hayman appearing in visions and flashbacks) and turning to drink to cope. His habits create a distance with the rest of the group, especially in the wake of his tensions with new member Morgan (Richard Harrington) – a Welshman whose own profession goes against Jim’s working-the-water ways. Public outbursts begin to make their way into the tabloids, causing the record label to consider dropping the group due to their bad images – which it seems not even media training can properly tackle, caused by Dave John’s Leadville, who appears to get a bit more to do this time around, after a misunderstanding with a journalist. Even the youngest member of the group, Rowan (Sam Swainsbury) is having difficulties with wife Becky (Libby Walker) after receiving unwanted, and revealing, texts from a hen party member from the recent tour.
Throw in Imelda May as 90s star Aubrey Flynn, falling in with Jim whilst looking for a quiet life in Cornwall away from the cameras and tabloid pressure and you’ve assembled a rather familiar set of elements, characters and narrative devices. Even being “based on a true story” you can generally recognise the film and tell where it’s going to go with its various elements. It slightly matches the gags which run throughout the film and don’t overly manage to muster up a chuckle, some simply don’t quite click in the context of the film being set in 2011, the closest is to a briefly seen – to the point where it’s likely an unintentional gag – acronym for the Port Isaac Shuttle Service.
Yet, there’s no denying that there’s still a watchable nature to the film. Yes, it might knock itself down every now and then by slipping into its more conventional roots. Certainly it manages to stir something during the various musical performances which pop up now and then – even if some are tinted with a layer of cheese and sentimentalism, with a dash of ‘come to Cornwall!’ scenery. The familiarity may still be present, and you can feel it, but there’s something about the film which generally carries itself through and allows it to work and avoid becoming frustrating. Perhaps it’s the feeling that it’s not trying to be anything brilliant and instead is just trying to make something that’ll please the audience for the time that it’s on – which it generally appeared to do and will likely continue to do so. It’s this overall style and feeling of good-intentions which helps to carry things through and keep you interested in the film as it pans along through the rises and falls of its central characters – and indeed the film itself.
While the laughs might not quite come through there’s something about the general style of Fisherman’s Friends: One And All which allows for you to watch without feeling frustrated by the occasional dips into convention. It’s good-natured feeling comes through and kind of works.