Hampstead is a film that is based on a true story. But you get the sense that it’s a glossy, feel-good version of reality. The film is a pleasant rom-com that is a nice way to wile away 102 minutes so long as you don’t expect any surprises or social realism.
The film is directed by Joel Hopkins (Last Chance Harvey) and is loosely based on the life of the late Harry Hallowes. The latter was a homeless man who inherited land in Hampstead after he squatted there for some time. In this film he is played by Brendan Gleeson and is given the name Donald Horner (or to some snarky locals, “Donald Tramp.”) This character is a likeable and charming Irishman with a heart-of-gold when you get to know him.
Messer Horner/Tramp catches the eye of the kind-hearted, Emily Walters (a luminous, Diane Keaton). She is his neighbour insofar as she lives in a luxury apartment block with a bunch of snooty women and she has a view of his shanty. Emily is recently widowed and has crippling debts that were racked up by her philandering husband. She spies Donald and the two form an unlikely friendship and partnership.
Some local developers are trying to evict Donald but Emily encourages the vagrant to stand up to them and fight. The story is one that is predictable in every sense but it is such an enjoyable ride that you will forgive the film’s lack of twists or gritty realism. Hampstead is also a film where Keaton and Gleeson share a nice chemistry, although their roles don’t really require them to flex many acting muscles.
Hampstead is a pretty film that captures beautiful shots of the heath as well as a heart-warming romance between two older people. It’s a sweet, feel-good tale about finding romance at an unlikely time and in an improbable place, as well as seizing second chances that are thrown your way. If you can suspend your disbelief for its duration, this comedy romance will prove a breezy and life-affirming walk in the park.
Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Hampstead releases in theatres August 17.