On the opposite end of the spectrum from the frenetic Boss Baby 2, the wildly unlikely The Tomorrow War, and the dark and tense No Sudden Move is the leisurely Hampstead. For the lawyers out there, think Property Law. Remember OCEAN-open, continuous, exclusive, adverse, and notorious? Yes, adverse possession raises its nostalgic head in Hampstead. In 1987, Harry Hallowes, evicted from his flat elsewhere, sets up camp on Hampstead Heath. In 2007, developers tried unsuccessfully to evict him. Little guy takes on and beats big, bad developers. So, why not make a movie about him? Therein lies the problem. The producers made a movie about Emily Walters.
Harry Hallowes didn’t have a love interest (Cinemaholic). “Inspired” by his story, the viewer gets Donald Horner and the aforesaid Walters instead. The views of Hampstead in the film are striking. They should be. Within its London borders, the area has more millionaires than any other in the UK. Don’t expect much from the first half of the movie which focuses more on the financial struggles of Walters. The relationship between Horner and Walters seems a stretch. Never one to overlook the nature scenes of the park, the best part of Hampstead may be the court scenes, especially the gifted Phil Davis as Sid Fife. Too much “inspiration” downgrades this flick to 3.0 Gavels and it receives a 43% Rotten Tomatoes rating and a 6.0/10 IMDb score.
Emily Walters’ husband left her with a mountain of debt and no way to afford her posh flat in Hampstead. Offers to help go unheeded as she is too embarrassed to let others know her dire straits. The plight of Donald Horton across the street comes to her attention. Her best friend’s husband wants to develop Hampstead Heath, allegedly to help alleviate the housing shortage in London. Despite repeated eviction notices, Donald refuses to leave. Walters encourages Donald to fight for the land he’s lived on for seventeen years. Like her, he resists help.
One writer noted that, without the wisecracks, Chris Pratt didn’t know what to do with his face. At times, Diane Keaton (Book Club) suffers from a similar affliction. Her Emily Walters is rather annoying. On the other hand, Brendan Gleeson (Paddington 2) plays the educated, curmudgeonly “tramp” perfectly. Then again, he’s been playing the part of Donald Horner for years. Lesley Manville (Emily’s friend) and James Norton (Emily’s son), both gifted actors, add little to the film.
A film about housing shortages, conservation, class differences, snobbery, and love is bridge too far for Hampstead. In trying to expand a good story, the writers watered it all down. Keaton and Gleeson have no chemistry. All that’s left is nice shack floating down the river. That may be a metaphor for Hampstead.
“The quasi-credible friendship that develops between Emily and Harry gives way to a less plausible romance. But the winning, sympathetic Keaton and an enjoyably puckish Gleeson largely sell the contrived setup.” Los Angeles Times
“This ghastly faux-mance pays lip service to the housing crisis but has as much genuine empathy as someone whose main concern about rising rents is whether it might push up the price of nannies.” Observer (UK)
Even Diane Keaton fans are likely to be disappointed with this one. If still interested, find Hampstead on Netflix.