The Bank of Dave – movie review

The feelgood film The Bank of Dave is based on the true story of Dave Fishwick; a businessman from Burnley, one of the most deprived towns in northern England.

Dave became wealthy from running his own business selling vans to local customers, and he began loaning money to locals in need of support to help them out when they were struggling. Disillusioned with the banking system, especially after the recent financial crash that left many without their life savings, he then decided to venture out and open his own small community bank with the aim of reinvesting in the local community and helping local business thrive. But he found stiff opposition and numerous obstacles placed in his way by the financial regulating bodies. The powers that be had never approved a license for a new bank in 150 years. Dave hired London based lawyer Hugh (Joel Fry, from Game of Thrones) to help oversee the paperwork and deal with the legalities.

While nominally the film is about Dave and his story, Bank Of Dave is also about Hugh and his journey. Initially reluctant and skeptical of the idea he was soon charmed by the warmth and friendliness of the community of Burnley. He also found romance with Alexandra (Phoebe Dynevor), the feisty local doctor who was advocating for a free walk-in clinic in the town to ease the pressure on the overworked and crowded local hospital.

Bank of Dave is certainly formulaic, but it has been directed with a suitably light touch by Chris Foggin, who also directed the similarly feelgood tale of Fisherman’s Friends in 2019. Writer Piers Ashworth (who collaborated with Foggin on Fisherman’s Friends has taken some enormous liberties with the facts for dramatic purposes, but this entertaining and delightful film works a treat. Ashworth paints the bankers as evil in broad brush strokes, and they are given voice through actors of the calibre of Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) as the stuffy Sir Charles. For instance, Def Leppard never played a fund-raising concert for the community, but their appearance here adds a nice frisson to the material. The film was also shot on various locations around Burnley by cinematographer Mike Stern Sterzynski (who brought Venice to life in the recent so-so comedy The Honeymoon), which adds a sense of authenticity to the material.

The real Dave Fishwick is a larger than life, affable chap, optimistic and upbeat, and Olivier award-winning actor Rory Kinnear (from the Bond series) has captured his essence here. He plays the likeable, easy going and affable Dave with a self-effacing sense of humour, and his role here as a true working-class hero is a marked change from his recent work playing multiple, creepy roles in the offbeat drama Men. Fry brings charm to his role as Hugh, and Dynevor (Bridgerton) is strong as Alexandra. The pair develop a strong on-screen chemistry.

This warm underdog story will resonate strongly with Australian audiences who fondly remember the local classic comedy The Castle.

Greg King

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