“The Bookshop” is meticulously crafted; there’s a lushness to the camera as it slowly wheels around the collection of books, so much that you could swear you almost smell them.

The actual titular bookshop is not quite as fine-tuned, although it is just as lovingly maintained: In 1959 England, a young widow Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) puts all her savings in a small bookshop in a quiet, and conservative, coastal town. The film allows us to bask in her fulfillment as a dream come true — she affectionately unboxes the novels to sell, tries to entice the town, and smartly navigates the often-muddled waters of small-town politics.

That is, until her time in the sun draws the attention of the reclusive, book-loving town eccentric (Bill Nighy), and the polite but ruthless grand dame (Patricia Clarkson) who has a bone to pick with the bookshop and its owner.

You might know “The Bookshop” was based on the novel by Penelope Fitzgerald even if you hadn’t heard of the book. The film has a literary pace, frequently circling around Florence’s dilemmas in a manner that’s read as both lyrical and frustrating, as local politics are wont to be. Plus, there’s the voiceover, which feels like a holdover from a novel, rather than a filmic tool to help tell the story. Additionally, the whole thing feels baked with a true love of writing, and all the personal expression that can come with it. Florence and Nighy’s Mr. Brundish first find common ground through letters; Florence’s bookshop is just as often subject to wordy legal and civic complaints.

Perhaps that’s why the optics of the whole film can feel off, or at a distance. Director Isabel Coixet’s shots are often beautifully composed but a bit jittery, jumping between perspectives nonsensically, which can create a drag on some of the municipal meanderings (particularly in the middle of the film).

It’s not that every bit of every movie has to “go somewhere,” but when “The Bookshop” takes its time — whether with a land use issue or a fight to put “Lolita” on shelves — it can’t manage to keep all the balls in the air. Players drop off and pop up in a way that can feel true to life (if you’re into that sort of thing) but also clumsy.

The film is, unsurprisingly, buoyed by the performances of its leading trio: No one does well-mannered coldness like Patricia Clarkson. Mortimer is as charming as she is headstrong and unsure — an unlikely combination brought to life with grounded fluidity. As Mr. Brundish, Nighy is flighty, peculiar, and winningly vulnerable, even as he attempts to close himself off from the world. The scenes of the two together, in stilted but open conversation about Ray Bradbury and their lives beyond his pages, are captivating and aching. It’s their connection where Coixet’s camera finds a true place, such as when Brundish is shot head on as he reads his letters to Florence.

But while the characters themselves all work best when they’re finding their courage (whatever that may be) “The Bookshop” ultimately refuses to stake itself in any particular way. The ending provides a nice resolution, but directorial flourishes — coupled with the sauntering to get there — make for a quiet, unmemorable film. It seems to more often than not be pulled in different directions, playing it safe without boldly professing much of anything. This story may be an open book, but it could use a bit more passion behind its pages.