By J.P. Devine
Director Chris Foggin’s “Fisherman’s Friends” is in town on Amazon Prime. It’s meat loaf and mashed potatoes with gravy. It’s fried chicken. It’s that comfortable, that evocative and heartwarming.
But they were fictitious. “Fisherman’s Friends” is, for the most part, a true story and here it is:
We meet Danny (Daniel Mays) who is a struggling mid-level promoter in a London music company.
At opening, Danny and his office buddies are on vacation in a tiny village in Cornwall. While strolling the waterfront, they come upon a group of fishermen, young, old and middle aged, entertaining visitors with an impromptu string of sea chanties.
Danny’s cynical buddies leave him behind in the village to try and sign the singers to a contract.
Of course, it’s a prank on the sweet, gullible Danny, because they have no intention of booking them.
But Danny really thinks the fishermen have a gift. He stays behind to truly find a way to get them a recording contract. He pitches the idea. They laugh but go along. Jim, the leader, the cynic at first, comments, “You’re gonna tell me people will buy a record of 10 hairy-assed fishermen singing chanties?” Wait and see.
The story slowly slides into a true 1930’s Frank Capra/Preston Sturge’s- style -human comedy/drama, that runs through Danny’s attempt to win their confidence by taking a room in the house of the fisherman’s boat captain, Jim, (James Purefoy) a widower who loves his fellow fishermen, and the village.
There is Jim’s daughter, Tamsyn (Meadow Nobrega) a gifted-amateur photographer and single mom with a darling daughter. Yes, the writers inserted a meet cute romance and a kid. You’ll be happy with them.
The fishing singers take Danny out for a day’s catch, and all become closer, and finally agree that they will take a chance on making a recording.
Danny works his dream by phone and laptop and gets the group an audition in London. Off they go in a rented bus to sing their authentic chanties in a glass-walled London office, and by the way, turn on a room full of Londoners in a pub.
But the record executive doesn’t share Danny’s dream, so the crew decides to go home to the friendlier cod and the halibut.
As a result, Tamsyn and Danny have a falling out, and he goes back to London. But the writers pull some tricks out of the briny mess. Danny puts a video of the group on Youtube — The British millennials fall in love with the sea-going Beatles, and overnight the video gets 7 million hits.
The town pub is saved, the aging singers get some big retirement money, and Tamsyn gets Danny, who has decided that Cornwall is a softer world, back in her arms. Thank you, Frank Capra, your formula still works.
Yes, it’s corny, but the singers, singing original chanties such as “Drunken Sailor,” “South Australia” and the unforgettable “Blow The Man Down” will have you walking about town singing chanties through your mask.
All local baritones, James Purefoy, David Hayman, Dave Johns and Sam Swainsbury, among them, become social media stars.
Tamsyn’s photos show us the real fishy singers on the end crawl, and we all go to bed happy.
“Fisherman’s Friends,” written by Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcoft, is based on a real Cornwall fisherman who, in 2010 hooked up with Universal and recorded an album that made it to the top 10.
Trust me, you’ll be calmed in these furnace days with the seas and skies of Cornwall, (gorgeously photographed by Simon Tindall) the actors and original music.
If ever we needed something to lift our spirits, it’s movies like this.
“Fisherman’s Friends” currently plays on Amazon Prime.