This quiet, gentle film from writer/director Isabel Coixet opens the 44th annual Seattle International Film Festival, which runs through June 10.

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The 44th annual Seattle International Film Festival begins its 3 1/2 weeks of movie magic on Thursday night, with a gala screening of “The Bookshop” at McCaw Hall, followed by an opening-night party at Fisher Pavilion.  Before its conclusion June 10, SIFF will have screened more than 400 films, at locations all over town. See or check Friday’s Weekend Plus section for SIFF news and recommendations throughout the festival.

★★★½ “The Bookshop”

This quiet, gentle film, from writer/director Isabel Coixet (based on a Penelope Fitzgerald novel), makes for a low-key festival opening, but a charming one; those who love books, picturesque English villages and getting lost in actors’ faces should be very happy. Emily Mortimer plays a young widow in 1959 Suffolk who shocks the townsfolk by opening a bookshop, Bill Nighy is her crusty neighbor, Patricia Clarkson a local society matron. There’s little drama, but great pleasure in watching how Nighy gazes at Mortimer as if she’s a book he’s suddenly realized he’s enjoying reading, and hearing how Clarkson (who previously collaborated, to lovely effect, with Coixet in “Learning to Drive”) weaves silk with her voice. And who can resist a movie that reminds us that “No one ever feels alone in a bookshop”? By the way, that’s Julie Christie delivering the film’s crisp voice-over narration, sounding like a woman who takes pleasure in words. 7 p.m. May 17, Marion Oliver McCaw Hall; individual tickets begin at $75 (includes film and opening-night party).


Seattle International Film Festival

May 17-June 10 at SIFF Cinema Uptown,  SIFF Cinema Egyptian, SIFF Film Center, Pacific Place, Majestic Bay (May 18-23), Ark Lodge (May 18-24), Lincoln Square (May 18-31), Kirkland Performance Center (May 31-June 3), Shoreline Community College (May 25-June 2). Individual tickets are $11 for weekday matinees ($9 SIFF members), $14 evening/weekend shows ($12 SIFF members);  various ticket packages available. Box office: 206-324-9996, or at festival venues.