Green Book – in spite of its hard hitting subject matter – is an absolute delight from beginning to end

Loosely based on Don Shirley’s tour of the Deep South of America, Peter Farrelly’s film – showing on Wednesday 21st August – is an absolute delight from beginning to end, notwithstanding its hard hitting subject matter.

Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) was an African American classical and jazz pianist determined to make a point. Forced to make good use of the eponymous Green Book, an invaluable reference for anyone of colour looking for a place to stay while travelling across America, he hires Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelongam (Viggo Mortensen), an  Italian-American driver and bodyguard. Both Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen play agreeably against type, with Ali a prissy but principled snob, and Mortensen a likeable but dissolute rogue. Their fractious relationship only grows closer when the two men face the shocking prejudice of Shirley’s supposed admirers – an odious, privileged class that exalted Shirley’s piano playing, but still expected him to come in through the kitchen and use the outside toilet.

Angry, impassioned but also very funny, the movie manages to deliver an important message without feeling at all didactic. Instead it focuses on the burgeoning friendship between two men thrown together by circumstance and bonded by revulsion for a poisonous attitude to race that should feel like a historical footnote, but of late feels worryingly prescient.

By David Vass