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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
Modesty may well be British cinema’s most successful export. It’s spawned a genre. Its heroes are unassuming people who get together for a good cause and end up becoming famous, having charmed all those who can relate to a story about lovable underdogs coming out on top.
Fisherman’s Friends is a fanciful tale which happens to be drawn from life – with the usual fictional flourishes added to spice up the characters and tidy up the storyline. We’re used to that. Moviemakers don’t have much time for lives that can’t be neatly divided into three acts and reality rarely obliges. In this case, however, truth really is stranger than fiction, for the basic facts of the story are harder to believe than the made-up bits. These triumphant underdogs are Cornish fishermen whose sea shanties have turned them into Britain’s unlikeliest pop stars.
In 2010, they signed a big contract with Island Records and they have since performed at Glastonbury and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. In another melding of fact and fiction, they come from the north Cornwall village of Port Isaac, home of British television’s habitually grumpy Doc Martin. Headline writers addicted to bad puns have labelled them a “buoy band”.
They first got together in 1995, putting on outdoor concerts for the Port Isaac locals. The word got around and they were spotted by some music industry executives from London – a meeting that gives the film’s screenwriters, Nick Moorcroft, Meg Leonard and Piers Ashworth, the chance to unleash their imaginations. In their version, Danny (Daniel Mays), a talent manager who’s in Cornwall for a bucks’ party, is conned by his so-called friends into believing their London recording company will sign up the singers. By the time they get around to telling him they were joking, he’s become a fan, convinced that he can give them a future in show business. It’s a cheering success story highlighting the homely pleasures and eccentricities of English village life.