Hampstead (2017)

  • Time: 102 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama | Romance
  • Director: Joel Hopkins
  • Cast: Diane Keaton, Brendan Gleeson, James Norton


An American widow finds unexpected love with a man living wild on Hampstead Heath when they take on the developers who want to destroy his home.

One review

  • Considering the aching poignancy that suffused his previous film, Last Chance Harvey, director Joel Hopkins’ latest effort Hampstead comes as a bit of a disappointment. The letdown is somewhat leavened by his two leads, both of whom bring their individual charm to this slender silver-years romantic comedy.

    Inspired by actual events, the film stars Diane Keaton as Emily Walters whose style, as with most of Keaton’s characters, has been obviously influenced by Keaton’s most famous role, Annie Hall. An American living in the posh North London suburb, the recently widowed Emily fills her days working for a charity shop and listening to how useless she is at love – via her busybody neighbour and alleged friend Fiona (Lesley Manville) – and life in general via her strapping son Philip (James Norton), who is especially concerned about how she’s going to take care of herself when her finances are dwindling.

    Though Fiona insists on killing two birds with one stone by setting the reluctant Emily up with a very amorous accountant named James Smythe (a highly amusing Jason Watkins), Emily’s interest is more piqued by Donald (Brendan Gleeson), a gruff loner who has been squatting on Hampstead Heath for the past 17 years. She’s even more drawn to him when she learns that he’s being evicted from the shed that he’s made his home. Though he’s wary of being made into her pet cause du jour, he eventually relents into letting her help him fight the eviction notice. Naturally, romantic frissons begin to surface.

    Keaton’s delightful loopiness is always welcome and it’s particularly heartening to see Gleeson as a romantic lead, but their pairing isn’t entirely successful. They spark well enough but, if one roots for them to have a happy ending, it’s mostly due to the actors’ playing and plot machinations rather than any genuine investment in their future together. Nevertheless, one can’t deny that Hampstead is warm, inviting and open-hearted and a solid cinematic postcard for Hampstead. Though its comic moments elicit mild chuckles rather than guffaws, the reveal of Smythe’s ukulele-playing skills is an absolute highlight.

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