Calling a movie “Hampstead” invitations quick comparisons with “Notting Hill,” the Richard Curtis-penned rom-com that put that specific West London enclave on the worldwide map again in 1999.
Director Joel Hopkins could also be hoping for comparable success, though I doubt the nice residents of Hampstead itself are wanting ahead to an inflow of overseas vacationers alongside their leafy and quaint streets.
In any case, the realm of north London’s Hampstead on which this movie focuses is the Heath, an amazing expanse of wooden and wild park land that instantly options within the film’s twinkling opening sequence, following a baby’s kite because it flies throughout the Heath’s well-known views of the town skyline, floating above picnicking households, striding canine walkers, pert joggers and recumbent lovers. It’s a shot, I suppose, meant to rival Hugh Grant’s “walk through the seasons” alongside Portobello Market in “Notting Hill.” (Perhaps deliberately, the 2 movies even share one explicit location, that of Georgian gem Kenwood House).
Hopkins, who grew up across the Heath, is aware of the place nicely and is intimate with the homes, the gorgeous pubs, and even the eating places. The movie seems and feels proper, maybe extra so than the reasonably touristy look he gave his earlier London movie, 2009’s “Last Chance Harvey,” which additionally featured a UK/USA romance, as Dustin Hoffman fell for Emma Thompson.
This time, the American is Diane Keaton, enjoying once-wealthy housewife and long-time Hampstead resident Emily, now a widow nonetheless shocked at her banker husband’s current demise and nonetheless dealing, badly, along with his money owed. Fiona (Lesley Manville), her uptight neighbor of their sensible, transformed residence constructing, fixes her up with an oily accountant (performed by British cinema’s present go-to creepy man, Jason Watkins, “Taboo”), who presents to type out Emily’s cash issues with “no strings attached.”
Sifting by her possessions within the attic one lonely evening, Emily finds her useless husband’s previous binoculars and, by them, scans the Heath throughout the highway. She spies an enormous man (Brendan Gleeson) washing himself in one of many ponds, like Baloo the bear. She watches as he lopes again to a shack, a sort of hut nestled away within the woods and undergrowth.
Just a few days later, Emily stumbles throughout the person resting by Karl Marx’s grave in Highgate Cemetery (technically a little bit of a stroll from the Heath, but it surely’s do-able) and, after he introduces himself gruffly as Donald, they start an unlikely friendship, fuelled by Emily studying that Donald faces eviction from his shack by grasping builders eager to construct luxurious flats within the grounds of the previous hospital through which his abode stands.
Their friendship turns to dinner at his place (on the menu is fish, illegally caught within the pond, and home-grown greens, washed down with selfmade wine) and fairly shortly Emily is actually shacked up with Donald, who’s happy with his perfume of “patchouli and pond scum.”
To say that is old style cinema is barely off — it’s cinema common for the previous, precision-tooled for the mid-week demographic. Keaton is definitely higher than I’ve seen for ages, summoning up an actual vulnerability to go together with her regular smarts. She goes full Keaton on the outfits, too, rustling up a succession of tweedy jackets, polka-dot scarves, collared shirts and slacks, topped with a gray wool beret. Gleason primarily wears a T-shirt, though he does decorate with a picket employees and occasional hat, which lends him a touch of Gandalf.
“Hampstead” performs together with the contrasts flippantly. Emily’s attraction to Donald’s various way of life teaches her some life classes (primarily: beware sniveling accountants and don’t belief wealthy neighbors)…
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