Not every movie has to be about outlandish escapism, sometimes it’s best that films are tranquil, sincere and ultimately life affirming. Director Joel Hopkins’ Hampstead is very much the later, and is one of the sweetest cinematic experiences you’ll have all year.
Here’s the synopsis:
With no zest for life and mounting bills, widower Emily Walters (Diane Keaton) is ultimately at a loss with what to do with herself. But after a chance encounter with artful tramp Donald Horner (Brendan Gleeson), Emily finds a sudden spring in her step. As their relationship grows the two form a partnership to stop a sly developer from destroying Donald’s life in a trial of immense David vs. Goliath proportions.
Based on a true story, Hampstead is a remarkably simple film of two mismatched, oddball characters that find one another in a chaotic and very busy world. The film is a simple, yet charming tale of the underdogs winning out. While it can sometimes begin to feel that the little guy will never triumph, Hampstead proves that if you keep your convictions and fight for what’s right you can ultimately prevail.
It’s fair to say that longtime Hollywood legend Diane Keaton is just playing herself in Hampstead. Her character Emily sparkles with Keaton’s unique sense of style and her colourful timing and zaniness makes for another great addition for her long list of credits. What I liked about Keaton’s performance was she really was not trying to act and just was. Her character Emily had little interest in keeping up with appearances and was ultimately her own unique self. To see a character so independent was refreshing as an audience member, and I loved that passion that was expressed through Keaton’s performance as she learned how to live and love again.
Next to Keaton is Brendan Gleeson’s Donald Horner, an eccentric tramp who has made a home for himself in Hampstead Park and who has no interest in living by society’s standards. Horner is a fascinating character who while being branded as homeless is no such thing. He’s inquisitive, scholarly and independent, although at the same time extremely cantankerous. While it does take him a while to warm up he eventually blossoms in a relationship with Emily and this leads to many magic moments between the couple. It’s hard to not think of anyone else in the role of Horner beside Gleeson and he shared great rapport with Keaton. The two performers are just wonderful together and the film ultimately succeeds because of their chemistry.
Dramatic, funny and ultimately lovable, Hampstead is a gorgeous little film that reminds its audience of the joys that can be discovered in life even if they’d thought forgotten. You’ll be guaranteed to walk out of it with a smile on your face and a flutter in your heart.
Image: EOne Films