The unlikeliest of boy bands, ten Cornish fishermen will have you tapping along to sea shanties in the buttery feel-good flick Fisherman’s Friends.
Considering how much time these fishermen spend out in the oceans, it seems fitting for Fisherman’s Friends that the first letters in the phrase ‘based on a true story’ spells ‘boats’. Inspired by the chart-topping success of a group of friends turned folk-stars, Fisherman’s Friends sets its course on highlighting the power of community.
The ‘sex, drugs and rock’n’roll’ mantra that embodies the life of rock stars everywhere couldn’t be any further removed from the Fisherman’s Friends’ belief in ‘friendship first, music second’. From dawn till afternoon, these lifelong friends trudge along on their boat singing the songs of yesteryear (1752 to be precise), harvesting some of Britain’s tastiest seafood against the backdrop of some of the UK’s most stunning scenery. It is a feat that director Chris Foggin manages to capture on tape in all its picturesque glory. Their kind demeanours, cheeky personalities and appreciation for history, one that speaks to the struggles of the working class, is where Fisherman’s Friends is at its most charming.
The trials and tribulations throughout the film do not stem from trope-y insecurities surrounding fame or jealousy, but at the thought of the Fisherman’s Friends compromising their small-town-values. The group’s interactions with Danny (Daniel Mays), a London music-man who is more accustomed to a yacht than fishing boats, bring out their condescending attitudes towards metropolitan elitism. The jabs made by the fishermen towards Danny are delivered with a sense of pandering to the working class. The stuff of which feeling like big-city folk, okay with self-deprecating themselves so long as they can afford their inner-city lofts, were telling non-metro areas it is okay to be regional.
Danny’s involvement in the film and his budding relationship with Alwyn (Tuppence Middleton) – the daughter of one of the hard-boiled fisherman, Jim (James Purefoy) – is where Fisherman’s Friends gets lost at sea. The film digs into rom-com cliche-dom to become less about the endeavours had by the Fisherman’s Friends and more about Danny being morally corrupt and soulless. Danny is the only character with growth in the film and watching him unfold into a better person serves a less original story than the heart-warming fishermen and their exploits.
This being said, the shanty-singing-gents and their journey from chartered waters to music charts is told with such endearing levels of twee that it is difficult to not be smitten by. Fisherman’s Friends is a warm serving of fish and chips that despite being eaten many times before still manages to deliver the goods.
Fisherman’s Friends is screening as part of the MINI British Film Festival across Australia, which runs from 29 October to 24 November.
The band have performed on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival.