If you want to feel warm and fuzzy, there are plenty of better, sweeter and more charming British films worth watching ahead of this one.
Kat Hayes
Published on August 18, 2017


A lacklustre vehicle for two fine actors, Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson are wasted in Joel Hopkins' Hampstead, a light-on-charm plod-along which harbours not much more than a giggle every now and then, some pretty scenery, and a particularly nice looking veggie patch.

Keaton is Emily, a recently widowed woman who lives in an upmarket block of apartments in London's Hampstead, neighboured mostly by other rich women her age. Her days involve throwing her hands up in the air about her debts while wandering around with her peers signing petitions and having brunch. Unsurprisingly, she feels as though something is missing from her life.

Enter Gleeson as Donald, a gruff Irishman who lives in a ramshackle hut on the heath, in perfect binocular-spying distance from Emily's attic. He grows his own food and fishes in the lake. One thing leads to another, there's some perfunctory plot development, and the two meet and strike up a romance. The only problem is that there's so little chemistry between the two that at one point, during a scene where they're kissing in bed, I found myself wondering whether it would rain tomorrow and if I had washing to put on at home.

The two actors do their best with the cloying, Richard Curtis-wannabe script, which aims for whimsical and lands on limp. Turns out Donald has built a cottage on the Heath without permission, doesn't pay rent or taxes, and is being evicted by the council who plan to build apartment blocks in place of him, leaving him homeless without any relatives to rely on. Emily, on the other hand, is worried about whether she's going to have to sell her super lush apartment because she's bad at accounting. Naturally the two bond over their "similar" circumstances. Based on the true tale of Harry Hallowes, who did actually live on Hampstead Heath in a DIY shack, the story itself is quite interesting. But the romantic comedy angle feels as though it's being squeezed out of a nearly-dry sponge.

Hampstead isn't bad. It just isn't, in the grand scheme of things, particularly good either. If you want to feel warm and fuzzy, there are plenty of better, sweeter and more charming British films worth watching. Also, if fishing and cheese picnics are someone's idea of "trampy" dates, then line me up. I'd swipe right on that any day of the week.


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