Bank of Dave Review – Sits in the Sweet Spot of Comedy and Drama With a Whole Lot of Community Spirit

In Australian Cinemas on June 1.

When one sees the title card “Based on a True(ish) Story” and brought to the screen by the creative team behind Fisherman’s Friends there isn’t much doubt what kind of movie experience is ahead. Bank of Dave about Dave Fishwick (Rory Kinnear), a self-made millionaire from Burney, Lancashire who decided to take on the banking establishment and open a community bank is precisely the feel-good, box ticking piece that it sets out to be; and that’s all in all not a bad thing. It’s a crowd-pleasing low investment movie and sometimes that’s all one needs to have a pleasant time.

There is a real Dave Fishwick, and he did decide post the 2008 financial crash in Britain that major banks had no interest in helping the people who were most vulnerable. Billions of pounds of tax-payer money was used to bail out financial institutions and the only people who paid were the British public. Small communities were hurting, and Dave saw that he could offer some assistance to the people in Burnley. He didn’t expect the loans to be repaid with a zero percent default, but Burnley (perhaps idealised, perhaps not) is not the kind of place where you screw over anyone in the community.

Enter Hugh Stockwell (Joel Fry) a young financial lawyer who is tasked with advising Dave. Hugh is an upwardly mobile London type who only knows that Burnley might have a good football team. When his boss Clarence (Angus Wright) insists he goes “Up North” to let Dave know that the FRB has not approved a new bank in approximately 150 years, and Dave’s chances are zero, the film sets up the fish out of water scenario nicely and also does a pretty good job at being a tourism ad for Burnley. If this all sounds extremely familiar to Daniel Mays’ character in Fisherman’s Friends, it’s because it is. There’s no reinvention of the wheel in Bank of Dave barely even a kick of the tyres.

Dave Fisher as played by Kinnear is exactly the kind of charmer you’d expect. Sure, he’s a bit full of himself and he certainly likes to hear himself talk (and sing – karaoke is just the beginning) but with his dedication to the community, his genial presence, and the support of his wife Nicola (Jo Hartley) he radiates “good guy.” Joel is originally unconvinced by Burnley until he notices that everyone is actually rather… pleasant, and he notices the firebrand A&E doctor, Alexandra (Phoebe Dynevor), who also Dave’s niece. Plus, there is the whirlwind tour of Burnley where Dave shows how many people he has helped and how the investments have paid off. Still sure that there is no way the Financial Regulation Board/Authority will approve a new bank, especially not to a working-class man, Hugh nonetheless goes back to London to file the paperwork. At the very least if Dave is refused, he has a platform to air his grievances about the ruling class dominated banking system and its many inequities that have meant that struggling people could not qualify for financial support.

Even though the story is ostensibly about Dave and his bank, director Chris Foggin and writer Piers Ashworth decide to tell the story mostly from Hugh’s perspective. Joel Fry is generally an amiable screen presence he generally manages to be a solid supporting actor. Here in the lead, he’s not quite able to carry it all but is aided considerably by Phoebe Dynevor’s dry wit and Kinnear’s enthusiasm. Hugh, too, is a “good guy” which means that when we meet the face of the exclusive gentlemen’s club that is British Banking, Sir Charles Denby (Hugh Bonneville, seemingly enjoying taking on more sinister roles of late), his change from amiable to righteously impassioned promises some dramatic stakes and an excellent courtroom scene.

There are some blatantly made-up aspects in the film, such as the inclusion of Def Leppard (they’re in it because the real Dave Fishwick likes them) and the whole Dave vs. Goliath battle is a lot more prosaic than the events of the film would have the audience believe. Nonetheless, Bank of Dave sits in the sweet spot of comedy, drama, a bit of romance, and a whole lot of community spirit. Sometimes a movie just has to be respectably entertaining and Bank of Dave is that. It also has a decent undercurrent against Tories and the dominance of the Etonian/Oxfordian type that runs most major institutions in Britain. A bit of polite kicking against the pricks goes far in enhancing the film’s charms.

Director: Chris Foggin

Cast: Joel Fry, Phoebe Dynevor, Rory Kinnear

Writer: Piers Ashworth

Nadine Whitney

Nadine Whitney holds qualifications in cinema, literature, cultural studies, education and design. When not writing about film, art or books, she can be found napping and missing her cat.

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