Was a tough one to name, this. Without the word ‘movie’ thrown in there it may have looked like a review of a place, and seeing as I’ve never visited Hampstead, neither know particularly where it is (although I’ve an inkling that it may be near London) that would be quite misleading.
Anyway, Hampstead. You can give this movie one thing right out of the gate, you couldn’t exactly call it overhyped, I think I remember seeing one trailer in the lead up to release, I thought it looked pretty charming but nonetheless forgot about it until I was scheduling my latest cinema visit. Among the latest blockbusters sat this movie, so I thought I’d practice what I preach and support a smaller movie.
An American widower living in Hampstead has a rather dull life, she spends it around overbearing middle-class women, who could be charitably described as ‘busybodies’ campaigning for the latest cause of the day, she is also having money troubles on account of the husband leaving her in debt.
All this leads to her being propositioned by an accountant, and shortly after involved in the life of an Irish vagabond named Donald who lives in a shack on the Heath, she begins to campaign against one of her friends to save Donald’s shack as their friendship blossoms.
That short summary may not sell you very much on the movie, I’ve left out a few details to avoid spoilers as I always do, but it’s sweet of nature and simple of setup, a promising premise is played off well by it’s characters.
The movie as a whole, however, is rather a mixed bag, it seems in the middle to have a fair amount of pacing issues, as it does start to feel as though it’s dragging, especially as the movie enters what feels like it’s final act, it overreaches itself at times with repeated arguments that seem to exist purely to pad out the running time, and some fringe characters remain underdeveloped, leaving two strong leads and a supporting cast that are rather interchangeable.
The positive side of that coin being it’s two leads, played by Diane Keaton and Dominic Gleeson, Gleeson especially gives a very personal performance, sometimes understated in the best possible way, it’s a performance that would bring great acclaim if there were more eyes on the film, somewhat disappointingly. Diane Keaton also gives a strong performance, portraying a woman in the middle of her humanity, a worried son and overbearing friends and neighbours, she brings a fish-out-of-water feel from the off and carries her struggles very well.
If you overlook it’s length and occasional duller moments, at the heart of this film is a sweet tale of a man’s right to live as he pleases. It’s strong lead characters vastly overshadow supporting players and on balance that’s not a bad thing as it invests it’s time in getting us invested in Donald’s struggles by not casting a broad net, it instead tells a personal, contained tale of unlikely acquaintance and as a whole is not a bad movie, if anything it has shot for the moon and miscalculated it’s trajectory. It’s not the best thing you’ll see this year, but you’ll leave happy for the experience and that’s all you can ask for really.