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Fisherman's Friends

Some bands can't be managed

Port Isaac, Cornwall, isn't exactly Las Vegas.

So London record executive Danny (Daniel Mays) came to his co-workers' stag weekend with suitably low expectations.

Enraging the locals by driving the wrong way down a one-way street, the group then find their plans scuppered by their intended vessel being stuck in Wales. Then, things get even worse. A paddleboarding adventure ends with them being rescued by the local coastguard.

But that's also when the capital quartet discover their saviours are also singers. Performing on the waterfront every week, the Shanty Singers (a boy band with a combined age of 653), deliver the rock'n'roll of 1752 to delighted audiences.

"They're funny, look the part and are singing copyright-free tunes, what's not to like?" Danny enthuses as his boss and the others leave him behind to seal the deal.

But, despite their various struggles, the band see no need to sell their souls for 15 minutes of fame. However, Danny is determined to get his men, persuading them to record a demo (ambient seabird sounds and all). That's when his colleagues lower the boom – it had all been a joke, there's no way this group of "Reservoir Seadogs" could create a chart-topping hit. Disappointed but not disheartened, Danny decides to take matters into his own hands.

Following closely in the footsteps of 1990s British tales like Brassed Off and The Full Monty, Fisherman's Friends is an entertaining, if wholly predictable underdog, unlikely-cultural-crossover tale. It trades heavily on its inspired-by-a-true-story roots, as well as its smalltown setting, with its narrative populated by a cast of eccentric, quirky characters, all blighted by past injustices or current crises.

Just think, if you enjoyed the comedy stylings of movies like Whisky Galore, Waking Ned Devine or Seducing Dr Lewis, then you'll have a ball here.

It's certainly not demanding viewing – there's predictable beats of romance, death, loss and success, a Nick Hornby-esque obsession with vinyl and woke questions about the appropriateness of shanties today. "The song they were singing was about prostitution," one record exec splutters. "So was Roxanne," Danny reminds them.

As well as the effusive Mays (Swimming with Men), the solid ensemble includes I, Daniel Blake's Dave Johns, Rome's James Purefoy, Trial & Retribution's David Hayman and Downton Abbey: The Movie's Tuppence Middleton.

Like the "fishermen" becoming a real catch in a world of manufactured pop, Friends will be a welcome throwback to those who yearn for the British comedies of decades past.

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Directed by: 
Chris Foggin
Running Time: 
112 minutes
James Purefoy
Meadow Nobrega
David Hayman
Maggie Steed
Screenplay by: 
Piers Ashworth
Meg Leonard
Nick Moorcroft

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