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Director:           Chris Foggin

Stars:              Daniel Mays, James Purefoy, Tuppence Middleton

Running time: 112 mins

Ratings:           IMDB                      0.0      (IMDB score is weighted average of audience scores out of 10)

             Rotten Tomatoes    00%    (Rotten Tomatoes score is % of professional critic reviews that are




 Movie Trailer:






They’re funny, they look the part and they are singing copyright-free songs. That, one city slicker music business executive on a stag weekend in Cornwall decides, makes it worthwhile signing up the group of Port Isaac fishermen in chunky jumpers who sing shanty songs by the shore.

Fisherman's Friends is a formulaic but thoroughly amiable and upbeat British comedy with a flavour of Ealing Studios and The Full Monty about it. The plot which the screenwriters have cooked up seems almost an afterthought. The singing fishermen came first. The Fisherman’s Friends really were signed by a major record label, had a top 10 hit, and turned into a full-blown media sensation. The film takes considerable liberties with their story, but fans of extra mature Cornish cheddar won’t be complaining.

Daniel Mays (looking a little like a young George Cole as a spiv in a St Trinian’s film) is the music exec Danny who comes to Port Isaac with his obnoxious friends for the stag do. The locals regard them with just as much hostility as you might expect. They’re “tossers”, “wankers from London”, the types who regard Cornwall as a place to buy a second home and visit once or twice a year at most. The tight-knit Port Isaac community doesn’t welcome strangers anyway.

Troy (Noel Clarke), one of the Londoners, tricks Danny into trying to sign up the group. Cue the predictable comic scenes in the pub in which the music exec tests his snake oil salesman-style patter out on the fishermen and they gleefully ridicule him. Danny won’t give up, though. He has an added incentive for prolonging his time in town in the shape of Alwyn (Tuppence Middleton), his landlady at the B&B where he is staying, and the daughter of one of the fishermen.

Some of the jokes are very creaky. The script overdoes the references to the gnarled old mariners as a “boy (or buoy) band with a combined age of 653” and to their traditional folk music as “the rock and roll of 1752”. At one stage, the singers put on dark glasses for no particular reason other than to set up a gag about them being “reservoir sea dogs”. 

Gradually, we learn more and more about the community. The pub, the spiritual centre of the town, is heavily in debt. The fishermen have experienced all the predictable upheaval – bereavement, broken relationships and the like. Alwyn is a single mother. Her former partner is conspicuous by his absence whenever it is his turn to look after their daughter. Her father Jim (played in brooding fashion by James Purefoy) is intensely suspicious of an outsider like Danny. At times, his attitude towards the Londoner is as hostile as that of Peter Vaughan towards Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs (also Cornish-set). He talks darkly about a man’s word being “as strong as Cornish oak”. Jim suspects that a limp-wristed Londoner like Danny might go back on a promise.

As a contrast to the Port Isaac scenes, there is an interlude in London, where Danny brings the Fisherman’s Friends to perform as they try to convince the record companies they’re worth taking a punt on. The fishermen are aghast at the price of beer – £53.80 for 10 pints. They’re even more startled by the price of fish.

Much of the film could easily make you groan and retch at the sheer predictability of it all. What stops Fisherman’s Friends entirely sticking in the craw is the casting, the good humour and, of course, the songs themselves. The performances are very likeable indeed. Old timers like Dave Johns (star of Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake) and David Hayman squeeze every last bit of humour and pathos from their roles as the singing sea dogs.

The ditties themselves are put across with plenty of relish. Even a song as familiar as “Drunken Sailor” seems fresh when roared out in a London pub by the band.

Of course, the smarmy Londoner Danny discovers a way of life and a sense of community in Port Isaac that are entirely absent in his corner of Hoxton. He “goes native” and learns to drink Cornish bitter instead of London lager.

Dramatic tension is in short supply. The tensest moment here comes when one team thinks another has a ringer in its ranks in a pub quiz or when a bridegroom has to find a photographer for his wedding at the last moment. Much of Fisherman’s Friends verges on the humdrum. That, though, only adds to its salty charm.

Geoffrey Macnab

The Independent