Cannes: Bill Nighy, Patricia Clarkson, Emily Mortimer Enter 'The Bookshop'

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Bill Nighy

Isabelle Coixet is directing the drama about a woman who brings a cultural awakening to a sleepy British seaside town.

The cast for Spanish director Isabelle Croixet's English-language drama The Bookshop has come together.

Patricia Clarkson, Emily Mortimer and Bill Nighy have joined the period piece, set in 1959 Britain and based on the novel by Penelope Fitzgerald.

The story sees Mortimer portraying Florence Green, a free-spirited widow who puts grief behind her and risks everything to open up a bookshop — the first such shop in the sleepy seaside town of Hardborough. Fighting damp, cold and considerable local apathy, she struggles to establish herself, but soon her fortunes change for the better.

By exposing the narrow-minded local townsfolk to the best literature of the day, including Nabokov’s scandalizing Lolita and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Florence opens their eyes, thereby causing a cultural awakening in a town which has not changed for centuries.

Her activities bring her a kindred spirit and ally in the figure of a character called Mr. Brundish, who is himself sick of the town’s stale atmosphere. But this mini social revolution soon brings her fierce enemies: She invites the hostility of the town’s less prosperous shopkeepers and also crosses Mrs. Gamart (Clarkson), Hardborough’s vengeful, embittered alpha female who is herself a wannabe doyenne of the local arts scene. When Florence refuses to bend to Gamart’s will, they begin a struggle not just for the bookshop but for the very heart and soul of the town.