There are two types of films that we Brits top the table to the rest of the world, the first is our social realism, and the second is our feel-good films. Unless the next Fisherman’s Friends wants to comment on the treatment of their beloved Cornwall, this Fisherman’s Friends film very much falls into the feel-good category. This is my first introduction to the Cornish, sea shanty acapella group. I also find it odd that this should be the way I’m introduced to them because I’ve visited Port Isaac, where the band is from, and I saw or heard nothing about the group whilst I was there. So this film had two jobs, nail the feel-good factor and win my affection for something I had missed. Fisherman’s Friends: One and All only succeeded in one job and I think you know which one.
This film tapped into the joyful experience of a singsong done properly. If you’ve ever tried to start a singalong, you know it goes two ways, silent embarrassment or you end up the highlight of the night. It’s one of the perspectives I’ve formed about this film. It would have either been awkward or uplifting, lucky for me and anyone else who sees it, there will be at least one scene that elicits a smile or a laugh. It does this with good humour and an inviting soundtrack worthy of the Fisherman’s success. I’m sure there’ll be a shanty that sticks in your head on the journey back home.
I’d like to also touch upon how inviting not only the Fisherman’s Friends are, but how Cornwall is in this film. I saw a few locations I remember from my visit to Port Isaac and some of the scenery in this film makes me want to go back there. There are plenty of films that have the location as a character, however what most quintessentially British films like to do is not just show you a character with its location, but a culture and way of life. Fisherman’s Friends: One and All follows this same rule. Simple things like seeing the Saint Piran’s Flag or scone etiquette are insignificant to the story, but work wonders in building an identity for the film.
Let’s get onto the Fisherman themselves, not everyone is back for this second film, but for those who stayed, you can’t really knock down their performances or characters. Leader of the Fisherman’s Friends Jim (James Purefoy) goes through the most engaging development in the film as he is struggling with not only the band’s fame and success but also the passing of his father Jago (David Hayman). Shifting the focus onto him and not the band may go against the title, but his personal journey is still one with enough will for audiences to follow along with. I thought the rest of the cast did their job fine, but obviously, they weren’t given nearly enough material as Jim.
The first Fisherman’s Friends may have been a surprise hit, but I don’t even think the filmmakers were expected to make a sequel. My reason for this is that at a certain point, Fisherman’s Friends: One and All really does scrape the bottom of the barrel to find a story. It’s almost like a sinking ship, and the filmmakers are plugging the holes with anything that remotely resembles a story
I believe it begins after the introduction of the newest member Morgan (Richard Hainsworth), a farmer from Wales which creates tension between Jim and him. Why not also explore this relationship? It would undoubtedly give Morgan more to do aside from being just the new member, the trailers really oversell Morgan’s importance in the film. Instead, Jim enters a romance with Aubrey (Imelda May), a former singer who is trying to revive her career after she verbally attacked her own fans. What should be a journey back to Jim’s highest point doesn’t feel that way because we are too distracted by the other meaningless subplots. It’s a bit like someone on a treadmill, he’s running but not exactly going anywhere.
The thing the film should be leading towards is the group being invited to perform at Glastonbury, but it never feels like that is where the film is heading. Instead, we have a moment of tension involving a tin mine, one member Rowan (Sam Swainsbury) dealing with a relationship crisis and their record label decides whether the group are deadwood. The unpredictability of this film is staggering, it’s as if the script fell apart after the mid-way point.
There are other issues with the film such as throwaway characters and the pacing isn’t consistent, but some films often have that one glaring issue that casts a large shadow over what should be a pleasant viewing experience, and when it is glaring as it is in this film, it’s impossible to ignore. I can’t argue against people who will have fun watching Fisherman’s Friends: One and All because I too felt it had its uplifting moments, but I also understand that this film is very flawed. It’s important to judge your audience and I think that’s where Fisherman’s Friends: One and All miscalculated. The first Fisherman’s Friends film was a one-hit wonder, and I think it should have stayed that way.
Final Result: 4/10 – Below Average
Have you seen Fisherman’s Friends: One and All? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Beast