Movie Review: Hampstead (2017)

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Staking out her Hampstead Heath neighborhood with a pair of newly found binoculars, American widow Emily Waters (Diane Keaton) springs into action when she sees a neighbor being attacked. Calling the police to intervene, Emily watches from the window of her posh flat and waits for them to help the stranger who lives across the street in a shack.

Having never previously met the man (played by Brendan Gleeson) in all the time she's resided there, fate lends a hand a second time shortly thereafter when she crosses his path in a cemetery after yelling at the gravestone of her unfaithful departed spouse.

When their meet awkward morphs into a meet cute, he asks her to dinner by way of a sign left for her binoculars to find. Soon a tentative relationship begins as the two outsiders come together, united as much by any attraction as an overall cause to try and stop land developers from tearing down his seventeen year residence in favor of luxury apartments.

Written by In the Bedroom's Robert Festinger and inspired by the life of the late Harry Hallowes, Hampstead is far more interested in the plight of its characters than in endearing them to the audience as individuals let alone a couple. And of course, this approach means that a great deal of the film's success is dependent upon the strength of its stars.

Completely up to the task, while the two are missing any real chemistry and the relationship's romantic evolution occurs mostly offscreen, the sheer likability of Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson helps Hampstead coast along.

Wisely adding scene-stealers Lesley Manville and Hugh Skinner to the mix in order to liven things up, although it's entirely by the numbers, the humanism and sensitivity on display from both the cast and in the direction from Last Chance Harvey's Joel Hopkins make this a pleasant if forgettable diversion.

In other words? Never underestimate a woman with binoculars.

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