It’s ironic that Fisherman’s Friends: One And All is so concerned with the idea of the difficult second album. Following up 2019’s solid, gentle British comedy-drama — based on the true-life tale of a group of Cornish fishermen who signed to a record label and hit the charts — this second outing is a scattershot return, one that hits familiar beats and delivers a handful of solid singles, but is weighed down by a surplus of album tracks.
After finding mainstream success in the first film, One And All begins with Fisherman’s Friends reaping the rewards of their success with a UK tour (albeit in less-than-glamorous locations like Grimsby). But while they’re juggling the dual responsibilities of being professional singers and professional seafarers, becoming local celebrities in the process, there isn’t a happily-ever-after: loss and label pressure is looming to shake things up.
Following an opening act dealing in broad men-out-of-time comedy beats (the largely un-PC group are sent for media training to “drag them into the 21st century”; a conference call with the label finds Dave Johns’ hapless Leadville accidentally having a piss on speakerphone), One And All starts to become seriously overloaded, setting up more plot threads than it can handle. Leader Jim (James Purefoy) is increasingly inebriated and struggling to process his father’s death; label bosses have deemed the group’s second album lacklustre and they face being dropped; pressure to recruit a new member causes band tensions; the arrival in town of Irish singer Aubrey (real-life singer Imelda May, impressive in her acting debut) rubs Jim up the wrong way; Rowan’s (Sam Swainsbury) tour antics with a hen do cause ruptions in his marriage; label manager Leah (Jade Anouka, likeable) is caught between pleasing the higher-ups and attempting to whip the group back into shape; the promise of a set at Glastonbury hangs in the balance… it’s all too much, leading to a waterlogged runtime and a zig-zagging narrative.
The good bits are seriously bogged down in the sheer mass of storylines.
Even with all that excess plotting, there is at least some heartwarming stuff here. James Purefoy brings grizzled warmth to Jim, and his explorations of grief and growing attraction to Aubrey provide genuine heart. For a solid chunk of time, One And All becomes an amiable, middle-aged romcom between the pair and that focus is welcome — until unnecessary lashings of extra drama (a mineshaft accident; the inevitable ‘I can’t do this’ break-up) find the film treading water again. Joshua McGuire is often fun as label minion Gareth (“I literally cannot function outside of the M25!”), the singalongs (when they finally come) are as rousing as they should be, and the low-stakes nature of it all (can the group withstand Welsh newcomer Morgan being — gasp! — a farmer rather than a fisherman?) is something of a welcome escape. While at times it looks distinctly like a Sunday-teatime TV drama, it does make the most of the stunning Cornish coast with some handsomely captured sunsets.
But the good bits are seriously bogged down in the sheer mass of storylines, meaning the inevitable Glasto Pyramid Stage finale (the real band played there in 2011) takes forever to reach — and like a camper who’s spent several days wallowing in the mud and staying up all night, you’ll more than likely be ready to go home by then. When Fisherman’s Friends: One And All’s equivalent of a big chorus hits, it delivers exactly what it’s intended for. But it really needed trimming down from what feels like a double-album’s worth of material. Still, the self-referential ‘they’re making a movie about us?’ threequel teased in the final reel could be fun.