Hampstead – Film Review by Frank L.
Director: Joel Hopkins
Writer: Robert Festinger
Stars: Diane Keaton, Brendan Gleeson, James Norton
Emily (Diane Keaton), recently widowed American, lives in a fine Edwardian block of apartments overlooking Hampstead heath. Her late husband was a banker and has left his affairs, and therefore hers, in a mess. The other residents in the block are all well-heeled and smug. One day she is in her attic space and comes across her husband’s old binoculars. She peers through them and notices a very different species of human in one of the heath’s ponds. Shortly afterwards she comes across this individual, Donald (Brendan Gleeson), and his romantic shack. An amorous spark is lit between Emily and Donald. Meanwhile one of her helpful neighbours has put her in touch with an oleaginous financial adviser played admirably by Jason Watkins. Donald’s shack is situated on development land and he is duly served with an eviction notice in relation to it. While the main story is Emily and Donald, the eviction notice brings into play the never ending battle between a money making developer and the individual who wishes to live undisturbed. So Donald and Emily’s love story is set against a David and Goliath battle.
Joel Hopkins detailed photography of the cute shops and restaurants which make up the smart parts of Hampstead underlines the difference in the finances of Emily’s neighbours and the likes of Donald. Both Keaton and Gleeson inhabit the respective personas of Emily and Donald in an entirely convincing manner. Donald shows how hard it is to maintain a way of life that threatens to diminish the value of other people’s property, even if you are living inoffensively. The court room drama in which Simon Callow as the judge brings this aspect of the story to a climax is more theatrical than factual.
One suspects that this was intended as a feel good movie about an unlikely pair of mature people who find happiness together. It is set against the obvious inequality of wealth of near neighbours in London. Since the film was made those inequalities have been even more starkly displayed by Grenfell Tower fire in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Having seen the movie before that catastrophe had happened this film may seem less benign now and less “feel good” than probably intended.