The strangest little thing can have an unforeseen and intrusive impact on one’s viewing of a movie. Early on, the widow Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) is in discussion with her bullying bank manager about the pros and cons of taking out a mortgage on an historic old house that she wants to turn into a bookshop in a picturesque seaside village. During the tight close-up, which is shot from a peculiar angle that looks down on her face, I noticed Mortimer’s left eye does not open quite as wide as her right and that it is ever so slightly blurred – and my attention was drawn to it from then on. That is a roundabout way, I guess, of saying that Isabel Coiset’s adaptation of the novel by Penelope Fitzgerald is a dull, at times maudlin affair that never really takes off. Florence’s innocent ambition is opposed by Violet Gamart (Patricia Clarkson), a formidable and wealthy woman who is used to getting her own way. It seems a storm in a teacup, so Coiset pursues the theme of the courageous loner up against the hostility of those who cling to their place in the established order and are intent on seeing the back of the outsider. Her staunchest ally is the reclusive bibliophile Edmund Brundish (Bill Nighy), who, as a sort of Miss Haversham, lives alone in a run-down mansion. We all love Nighy, but he is at a stage of his career where he does little more than play himself and this film cries out for something more than that. There is a lot of bookish dialogue, often punctuated by clumsy silences, neither of which is overcome by the mousy Mortimer. Christine (Honor Kneafsey), the ginger-haired child who works after school in the shop (she is the young Fitzgerald), provides some light, but James Lance’s smarmy Milo is very stagy. Numerous cuts to rolling clouds, billowing trees and lapping seas are gratuitous mood enhancers, and it is not until the very end that the story finds any spark.