by Seth Troyer
If you’re looking for a low stakes, feel good film to watch with your family, you could do a lot worse than Fisherman’s Friends.
The film is loosely based on the true story of a men’s a capella group consisting of tough-as-nails men of the sea who were eventually signed to Island Records and became a surprising success.
Witnessing the transformation of a group of old men who like to sing traditional music while drunk at a pub on a Friday night into performers with sold out shows is undeniably interesting. The a cappella performances in the film mix the voices of original members and the actors portraying them, and the results are surprising. Even if it’s not your thing, Fisherman’s Friends will remind you that a cappella music can send shivers down anyone’s spine.
Names have been changed and the story is clearly expanded and fictionalized to better suit the arc of a feel good movie. One of the real events left out is the 2013 stage collapse that resulted in the deaths of member Trevor Grills and promotor Paul McMullen. The film is respectfully dedicated to these men and seems to be an attempt to celebrate the good times before the tragedy rather than letting it define the band.
I can’t help thinking that a more honest and candid portrayal may have made for a more engaging film, but the choice to avoid the tricky task of translating such a painful event into cinematic drama is understandable.
In the end, director Chris Foggin succeeds in doing what he sets out to do. The film is a charming story of friendship and ambition—nothing more, nothing less. It follows all the familiar narrative beats, with a sweet but predictable love story thrown in, and plenty of montages that will make more cynical viewers roll their eyes. But honestly, this simply isn’t the film for a cynical viewer.
If you want Ingmar Bergman, go watch The Seventh Seal (it, of course, rules). But if you want to watch something with your extended family and maybe smile a bit, what you have here is some Cornish cinematic comfort food that will do the trick just fine.