Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Diane Keaton, James Norton, Lesley Manville, Simon Callow, Hugh Skinner, Jason Watkins
Director: Joel Hopkins
Release date: 23rd June 2017
Emily (Diane Keaton) is an American lady, living in a flat in posh Hampstead in North London. Her husband, died one year previously and now she’s alone, apart from her son, Philip (James Norton) who doesn’t live with her. The other ladies in the building are all very well-to-do and have little committees that they run and participate in. Emily is in serious financial difficulties but tells no-one. One day she finds herself in the attic of the building and stumbles on an old pair of binoculars. While looking out of the window, she spots a bearded man swimming in the lake and then she spots a small wooden cottage hidden in the trees. She goes to investigate and meets Donald (Brendan Gleeson), the man she spotted from the window. He lives in the cottage, which he built in the woods. They begin chatting and soon become firm friends. Emily soon discovers that Donald has a secret of his own, and that is that he is in a battle with Developers who want to try and evict him from his home, which is on prime real estate, in the grounds of an old hospital. Emily decides that she must help Donald, whatever the cost. The pair are soon caught up in a fierce legal battle. Will Donald keep his home, or will the devious developers get their hands on the land?
The movie is based on the true story of Harry Hallowes, a 79 year old Irishman who ended up in a legal battle with developers, who wanted the land that his house was built on in a leafy London suburb. Harry proved that he had been resident on the land for more than 12 years and Dwyer International property developers lost in a Court of Law. He was awarded ‘Squatters Rights’ and the Land Registry declared him to be the legal owner. A quiet and community conscious man, he still lives in the cottage he calls home.
I really enjoyed ‘Hampstead’. There’s a really great story and some very likeable characters. I love both Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson as actors and I really enjoyed watching the chemistry between the two. Maybe not a movie to everyone’s taste, I think that ‘Hampstead’ is in essence, a love letter to North London. Lots of shots of leafy trees and we also see some of the ‘village’ aspect of ‘Hampstead’, when we see the small Charity shop that Emily works in, hidden away among the other boutique shops and trendy restaurants. The fact that it’s also based on a true story makes that that much more remarkable and in some ways makes you view it in a different way.
A really great ensemble cast, featuring the fantastic and funny Jason Watkins as Emily’s Lawyer and Simon Callow as the judge who presides over the case, the movie is entertaining from start to finish. It’s a real feel good movie.
If you’re looking for a movie that’s light-hearted and has a great lead character that you can root for, then give ‘Hampstead’ a watch. A story of David and Goliath that everyone can relate to, give it a try.