Rating: 2.5 / 5
The phrase “based on a true story” usually means we are in for a good plot and an interesting film. However, Hampstead doesn’t quite work, despite the interesting casting and potential for a good yarn.
Unsettled American widow Emily (Diane Keaton) is intrigued by unkempt environmentalist Donald (Brendan Gleeson) who has created his own rustic haven with a vegetable garden and fish from a lake in Hampstead Heath, a lovely piece of natural bushland in the London metropolis. In a plot reminiscent of Australia’s hugely successful film The Castle, Donald is served with an eviction notice from a developer who wants to put a swish multistorey apartment block where his home-made shack is, much to the delight of Emily’s vacuous, snobbish friends living across the road.
It sounds like a great plot line, but something got lost between the idea and the execution. A romance develops between two seeming opposites, Emily and Donald, but the chemistry that would make it believable is missing. While both Keaton and Gleeson give good performances, the film just doesn’t quite gel. However, lovers of good character acting will enjoy Lesley Manville’s snobbish fair-weather friend Fiona, and there is a fine and believable performance from James Norton (television’s hunky vicar Sidney from Grantchester) as Emily’s adult son Philip.
The photography is beautiful, and lovers of London will enjoy the glimpses of familiar streets. If you can forgive the way the film meanders along, and just enjoy some good acting and overlook the deficiencies in the script, you will have an enjoyable 103 minutes. And fans of Brendan Gleeson and James Norton will enjoy seeing their heroes back on the big screen.