2017 Certificate: 12

Synopsis

There's romance and other rustlings in one of London's leafiest boroughs when kindly widow Emily (Diane Keaton) makes the acquaintance of local 'character' Donald (Brendan Gleeson), a grumpy hermit who lives in a shack on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Despite their obvious differences, they make an unlikely match. Alas, their beautiful friendship is threatened by Emily's socio-economic woes and Donald's imminent eviction. Beware the NIMBYs on a gently amusing stroll that's not a million miles away from Richard Curtis's Notting Hill.

Director

  • Joel Hopkins

Cast

  • Diane Keaton

  • Brendan Gleeson

  • James Norton

  • Lesley Manville

  • Jason Watkins

  • Simon Callow

Review

Whilst inspired by the story of a real Hampstead Heathen - the late Harry Hallowes, of no fixed abode - the events that unfold in this version of NW3 are about as close to reality as The Last Of The Summer Wine is to The Wire.

That said, as anyone who's ever negotiated the distinctively homogenous crowds on Hampstead High Street can attest, it presents a fair depiction of the area's general populace. A scene with a snotty mother and her over-indulged brat nails it perfectly.

It's amidst this sea of self-entitlement and privilege that Keaton's American misfit Emily finds herself floundering a year after her husband died, leaving her with a mountain of debts and, ahem, nothing to live on.

Poor Emily. Feel her misery as she drags herself out of her Heath-side apartment and past the concierge to grab her first organic coffee of the day before spending hour after voluntary hour in a local charity shop... only to close up early so she can discuss her financial woes with her son (James Norton) over sushi (although to be fair, Hampstead doesn't have a Greggs). 

Anyway, everything is put in perspective when she befriends Hampstead's leading anti-socialite Donald (Gleeson), a ramshackle hobo who's been living under her nose for 17 years. Without her noticing.

After a few al fresco dates (for which the destitute Emily feels compelled to buy a £124 beret) it turns out that they're an oddly good match. The difference being that where she wants to move on, he doesn't.

But he may not have a choice as the local NIMBYs - led by Emily's snobby neighbour (Lesley Manville) and her property developer husband - want him to move on for good.

Whimsical and first-world problematic as the story may be, Keaton and Gleeson create a genuinely enjoyable chalk-and-cheese rapport.

And with reliably amusing support from Manville and Jason Watkins as Emily's oily suitor, Hampstead is good, clean, fanciful fun.

Elliott Noble