Monday Morning at the Movies – The Bookshop

I confess. I went to the movies on a Monday morning.

The Jerusalem Cinemateque is the home of several film festivals and is a place for movie lovers to gather and enjoy film. One of the major differences between the Cinemateque and a regular movie theater is that you will be shushed and chastised if you don’t observe proper movie-watching etiquette (they only recently allowed food in the theaters!).

You can buy a yearly membership and go to as many movies as you like throughout the year and get discounts on festival entrance fees. They have lectures and special screenings. Once I saw a new John Turturro movie followed by a Q&A with John Turturro. They screened The Karate Kid on a big screen on the lawn. I sat through all three Matrix movies in one night (ok, that was a mistake on my part)

This summer, on Monday mornings, they are screening several different movies and this week was The Bookshop. It was 10 NIS and I had missed the last showings at other theaters. It just so happened that I could arrange my schedule that morning, so at 11am I was in the theater.

The Bookshop stars Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, and Patricia Clarkson, and is rather gray and melancholy. It’s well-cast, well-acted, and well-done. But if you are not in the right mood, you won’t appreciate the small village Britishness of it.

Short review: Cautious thumbs up. Be in the right mood.

Long review: Below the trailer. Some spoilers.

 

“It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task. Yet, you are not free to desist from it.”

Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot) 2:21

A British movie in the middle of the day brought out many British people and a variety of other English-speakers. The theater was surprisingly full. I heard English from all corners. But the interesting thing was that after the movie, it was the Hebrew-speakers congregating in the foyer to discuss the film.

“Such courage!”

“How could she stand up against the whole town?”

The grande dame of the village was a horrible, petty woman. She decided that there would be no bookstore in that old house and that was it. A younger woman decides to stand up for her right to have a bookstore. And the widower on the hill who rarely steps out of his house is re-inspired.

All the makings of a Hollywood Hero’s Journey. And this movie is definitely not that.

And yet.

I was reminded of the line from Ethics of the Fathers. Emily Mortimer’s character begins the work. She decides to try to open the closed minds of the villagers. Cue Sisyphus.

And it is the child who carries on the work – I won’t give away the ending (you probably won’t guess the final act).

From there to here, we see a lot of the dirty underbelly of an English village: gossip, us versus you, the smile to your face while stabbing you in the back, and power plays.

Like the Hero’s Journey, this too is a universal story, except that it’s not one that we like to tell; it’s a little too close to real life, and frankly, it’s sad. But that’s why that last moment in the film reminds you that you have to start the task even if you don’t finish it in your lifetime. Someone else will continue it in the next generation.

I’m a huge Anglophile and I love all the actors. I’m glad I saw it. But this is not a movie for everyone.

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