Run time: 112 mins
Director: Joel Hopkins
Cast: Diane Keaton, Brendan Gleeson, James Norton, Jason Watkins, Lesley Manville, Phil Davis, Simon Callow, Hugh Skinner
Synopsis: 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.
Director Joel Watkins [Last Chance Harvey (2008); The Love Punch (2013)] is becoming a specialist in late-in-life romances involving mature characters in beautiful locations. Now with a script by Robert Festinger [In the Bedroom (2001), Trust (2010)], this cloying romcom is based on the true story of the late Harry Hallowes, known as Harry the Hermit, who became famous for living on Hampstead Heath. When property developers tried to evict him, he successfully claimed squatter’s rights to the land, having lived there for over twelve years. He was awarded a deed to the half-acre plot of land – worth millions now – in 2007.
Popular actor Brendan Gleeson [Trespass Against Us (2016), Suffragette (2015), Calvary (2014), In Bruges (2008)] plays the self-sufficient Donald who is spotted by a quirky American widow, Emily, played by Diane Keaton [The Young Pope (TV 2016-), Something’s Gotta Give (2003), The Godfather trilogy (1972, 1974, 1990), Annie Hall (1977)]. She spies on him from her attic with her antique binoculars, as he bathes in a lake on the Heath.
Lonely and adrift, apparently cash-strapped and pressured by her adult son, Philip (James Norton) to get her life in order and by her meddling, patronising and overbearing neighbour (Lesley Manville) to campaign for new flats and to pair off with her lecherous accountant friend, James (Jason Watkins), Emily decides to help Donald fight eviction from the Heath and gradually falls in love with him.
Stunning images of picturesque Hampstead with cobbled streets, flowers and shrubbery, Highgate Cemetery and the British Museum backdrop the couple’s fairy-tale romance which is clearly aimed at the ‘grey pound’’ and the tourist market.
Real important issues are briefly touched on in Hampstead – environmental concerns and scepticism concerning property development. However ultimately it feels like an escapist fantasy divorced from any gritty reality.
The real joy is the UK acting talent in the ensemble and the central performances of Gleeson and Keaton.
Images courtesy of Entertainment One UK