Netflix’s Bank of Dave claims to be a true(ish) story. While I appreciate that there has to be a degree of artistic licence in any film based on real events, it only takes a quick Google search to persuade me that in this case, that licence may have been pushed a tad too far. ‘Ish’ doesn’t quite cover it. Others, of course, may disagree. Oddly enough, if this were presented to me as a work of fiction, I’d be much happier about it.
Dave Fishwick (Rory Kinnear) is a cheery, plain talking Northerner. He’s also a highly successful businessman with a fortune created from selling vans. Based in Burnley, he’s been lending money to local friends and businesses for years and, what’s more, he donates all his profits to charities. He eventually decides he’d like to set up his own bank (as you do) and engages the services of London-based corporate lawyer, Hugh (Joel Fry), in order to help him achieve that goal. Though initially sneery about anything north of Watford Gap and, fully aware that no new bank has been granted a licence for 150 years, Hugh heads off to Burnley. Once there, he’s swiftly converted by Dave’s cheery persona and by the charms of Dave’s niece, Alexandra (Phoebe Dynevor), an A & E doctor – who, it must be said, appears to have more spare time on her hands than most in her profession.
But Hugh soon comes up against a cabal of snooty London bankers, led by the villainous (and entirely fictional) Sir Charles Denbigh (Hugh Bonneville, once more steering his career into darker waters). These toffs are determined to block the deal by any means possible. What, let some Northern oik get into the business of banking? No fear! It soon becomes evident that founding a new bank is going to be no easy matter.
The early stretches of the film feel somewhat caricatured as the evil privileged elite stamp gleefully over everything the cheery Northerners attempt to do. The latter are depicted as a bunch of saints, fond of a good laugh, a foaming pint and a night at the karaoke bar, clapping along as Dave belts out the greatest hits of Def Leppard. (Fans of the veteran band will doubtless enjoy the film as it features several of The Lepp’s best known songs and even a guest appearance from the musicians themselves.)
Once it hits its stride, Bank of Dave is a cheerful and uplifting movie with an overall ‘greed is bad’ message that few viewers will disagree with. Piers Ashworth’s script is funny, Kinnear provides a genuinely affable presence and Fry, once he’s loosened up a bit, is immensely likeable as a leading man. Most viewers will feel genuinely uplifted by the triumphant ending.
So why the relatively low score?
Inevitably, I must return to my original point. How ‘true’ should a true story be? How much massaging of the facts are viewers expected to accept? And why can’t filmmakers – just for once – own up to the fact that a ‘true’ story might not need the unconditionally joyful ending that’s been invented here?
You be the judge. For me, it’s an issue.
Still, that said, hats off to the real Dave – he might not have achieved the dizzy heights this film credits him with, but he has made a real difference to a lot of people’s lives.