Based on a true story, Fisherman’s Friends tells the unlikely tale of how a group of fishermen rose to fame and to the Top Ten of the charts. It’s a feel-good charmer set in rural Port Isaac, with a witty British – or rather Cornish – sense of humour and a selection of sea shanties along the way.
Although there are some facts woven in, a quick Google search will uncover schools of artistic license. The band of fishermen were indeed signed by Universal Records in 2010, however, a bizarre storyline involving a stag-do prank gone wrong, followed by a city workaholic’s journey to self-realisation, is blatantly fabricated. Line of Duty’s Daniel Mays plays the protagonist, a London music executive named Danny who is married to his job and a fish out of water in his new surroundings. His character is ostensibly irritating but, of course, a character u-turn ought to be expected. This is that kind of film.
Predictably sweet, the story packs in everything from clichéd romance to road trips and even pub bankruptcy drama. It borders on overpacked; the opening scenes feel retrospectively dragged out, whilst the running time of nearly two hours is unnecessarily excessive and runs the risk of the band’s unexpected journey being overshadowed. However, within this space of time, Fisherman’s Friends can safely transport its audience to a friendly quaint village and a real sense of community, surely impossible to fabricate. Filmed on location with some breathtaking scenes, this is coastal escapism at its finest.
The supporting cast includes James Purefoy and Tuppence Middleton as the cynical, unofficial lead singer and convenient love interest respectively. Purefoy, somewhat of an acting chameleon, is on top form throughout and Middleton does well despite having a limited amount to work with. All characters – even within the band – are fictional, with real-life members making cameo appearances. The most memorable moments are when the (semi-fictional) group come together and sing a capella about life at sea, whether gathered around the bay or harmonising in the village church. It brings the film back to the music and ultimately conveys the spirit the real Fisherman’s Friends are known for.
Another Google search will reveal that the band were marred by disaster after their tour manager Paul McMullen and singer Trevor Grills were tragically killed in a backstage accident. The movie, however, chooses an uplifting approach, concluding with the charting of the debut album. No Bohemian Rhapsody-style arena reenactments in sight (the band did later play at Glastonbury, after all) and no tragedy. Ultimately it’s a celebratory dedication of camaraderie, and quite the catch.
Fisherman’s Friends is released nationwide on 15th March 2019.
Watch the trailer for Fisherman’s Friends here: