At its heart a tale of acceptance and second chances, Hampstead is easy-to-watch flick for anyone who likes a bit of romance.
Emily (Diane Keaton) is an American widow living in the London suburb of Hampstead. Desperately unsatisfied with her life, she goes about her daily routine as usual until she meets Donald (Brendan Gleeson) a man living wild on the Heath. The two form an unlikely alliance when they join forces against a group of greedy local property developers, keen to make an extra buck wherever they can even if that means destroying the place that Donald calls home. The film is inspired by the real life story of Harry Hallowes, a recluse who claimed squatter’s rights to a patch of land in Hampstead Heath in London where he was living and legally challenged a group of property developers who attempted to evict him.
Director Joel Hopkins makes the most of the picturesque English countryside. The luscious green open spaces and old cobblestone streets are the perfect showcase for the blossoming relationship between two characters who seem so inherently different. Brendan Gleeson and Diane Keaton put in effortless performances, using gentle humour to great effect as their friendship develops into a charming romance.
Both Keaton and Gleeson are undeniably likeable as Emily and Donald, but at times the chemistry between them lacks any real spark. There are a few questions of authenticity, especially given that this is based on a true story, as Donald often doesn’t look like your typical hermit. Decked in his exceptionally clean and hole free jumpers, it’s a shame that the authenticity of the story couldn’t have carried over into the visual aspects of the film.
Questionable costumes aside, Hampstead features some solid performances from its seasoned stars, but doesn’t quite reach its potential. However, the film’s overall message, that love hits you unexpectedly and at any age, will leave you feeling sentimental, hopeful and cheered by its charm.
Hampstead is on general release from August 17.