A love of literature, people, and cosy reading nooks fuels A.B. Zax's gentle, unhurried film that pays tribute to small-town togetherness
An indie bookshop (called, simply, “Bookstore”) in Massachusetts and its locally beloved owner Matthew Tannenbaum form the heart of sweet and cheerful documentary Hello, Bookstore from debut filmmaker A.B. Zax. A tribute to books, readers, and the best aspects of small-town life and community, it’s a gentle and breezy look at the sort of local institution that has all too commonly been removed from high streets by Amazon and other giant corporate conglomerates.
Though it’s less than 90 minutes long and moves at a very unhurried pace, Hello, Bookstore still manages to pack a lot in, from Tannenbaum’s personal history and family life (he’s often visited by his two daughters) to the raconteur-ish stories of literary history he imparts upon his customers to the financial perils of COVID.
It’s in the pandemic stuff that Zax finds the film’s “drama,” as much as there is any, as the sudden inability of Tannenbaum’s customers to leisurely browse his shelves cuts deep into Bookstore’s bottom line. Touchingly, though, we see the way that the shop remains a heart of the neighbourhood; people still come by and ask Tannenbaum to browse for them and the GoFundMe set up for the store raises over $60,000 in less than 24 hours.
It’s the most heartwarming moment in a film just full of them, from Tannenbaum sharing a lunch with his heavily pregnant daughter to his long conversations with his aging regulars (there’s even a stool on the customer side of Tannenbaum’s desk, always encouraging chats). Hello, Bookstore is the kind of documentary you can just fall into, its cosy love of words and old reading nooks simply infectious.
Hello, Bookstore is released in UK cinemas and digital platforms on 30 June.Where to watch