Film Review: Hampstead

Pleasant * Gentle * Uplifting

3.5 stars

Hampstead is an English film with an American twist, an almost-rom-com, which I found a pleasant-enough way to pass the time of day.

HO00004383

It stars Diane Keaton (who I love, and I will watch anything she’s in) and Brendan Gleeson, in the story of a blossoming relationship between Emily (Keaton) and Donald (Gleeson), held together by the glue of a legal battle to defend Donald’s “squatters rights” to stay in his shack that he has built in Hampstead Heath in London. The scenery is gorgeous and there are some lovely moments of humour.

I went into the cinema knowing absolutely nothing about this film, having simply passed the movie poster at the front of the building and making an impromptu decision to head on in. So I didn’t know that the story was based on the true life events of Harry Hallowes, who won his squatters rights in 2007.

Look, as much as I adore Diane Keaton, I did spend some time at the beginning trying to orient myself as to where in time and space I was in this film, and then to reconcile her place in this otherwise very British film. In fact it highlighted to me quite sharply just how differently I feel about US or British films.

But what I was looking for was something gentle, uplifting and beautiful, and that is what I got. I walked out feeling good and that’s always a bonus.

 

Top 10 Romantic Films

The lovely Anna Campbell recently guest blogged at ALOHA and was asked to name her top 7 romance films. And don’t we all love a good list making? I’m the sort of person who makes lists all the time and, yes, I have been known to add something I’ve already done just so I can tick it off. Totally inspired by Anna’s list, I decided to write my own.

I like a good dash of comedy in with my romance, so I’ll be focusing those, but I do

Ever After, my favourite romantic comedy of all time.

have an occasional favourite romance and have allowed those too, almost entirely so I can include Dirty Dancing, which I would estimate I have seen no less than thirty times. “Nobody puts Baby in the corner!” (By the way, did you see the extras on the DVD that was released after Patrick died? Did you see the love scene that didn’t make it into the film? Holy cats!!!!!!!!!)

In no particular order:

  1. Dirty Dancing. Really, no explanation needed there. This film is as near to a perfect film as you can get.
  2. Love Actually. But I really only love the romance storyline between Colin Firth’s character and his cleaner, who can’t speak English. Such wonderful, captivating tension between them. I was working on my manuscript on the verandah just yesterday and a gust of wind blew the papers all across the yard and I thought of that delightfully funny scene where they both end up in the water chasing his manuscript. Gorgeous.
  3. Sense and Sensibility. Starring Emma Thompson as Elinor Dashwood. You can’t go past Jane Austen for great romance and this is a visual feast as well. Emma Thompson is such a star.
  4. Never Been Kissed. I think I might just have a bit of a girl crush on Drew Barrymore and will watch anything she is in. I just love her. This is one of the many, many Drew romantic comedies I love, and it’s a good one.
  5. The Holiday. An incredibly under-rated film starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black. A wonderful combination of actors, a funny and engaging script, gorgeous locations, charming. Another gorgeous film I could watch again and again.
  6. My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I saw this film on the plane on the last leg of my return journey from the UK, so maybe I was delirious with fatigue, but I laughed and laughed and laughed in this film. You know, the kind of laughing that becomes embarrassing when you’re only one of a few people awake and the rest of the plane is quiet. (“What do you mean he don’t eat no meat? Oh, it’s okay, I make lamb.”) And what a clever, clever woman Nia Vardalos is to write and star in the movie! An inspiration to all us writers.
  7. Father of the Bride. What a beautiful and funny film this is, with romance on all levels, starring the wonderful Diane Keaton and Steve Martin.
  8. Something’s Gotta Give. Also starring Diane Keaton, this is a highly amusing and entertaining love story involving (shock, horror!) people over 50.
  9. The Princess Bride. Wonderful fairy tale about love that simply will not die. (“As you wish…”)
  10. Ever After. Although I put this list in no particular order, I might just have to say that this is my favourite romantic comedy of all time. And… gasp!…. it stars Drew Barrymore as a Cinderella but one that gets a good dose of feminist power and humour and gets to save her prince as much as he gets to save her. Funny, funny, funny. Fairy wings. A guest appearance from Leonardo da Vinci. And Anjelica Huston bringing home the evil stepmother. A rollicking good film.

Gosh, it’s hard to end there… I really also want to sneak in Titanic because it has such a powerful love story alongside the visual wonder, humour and historical interest.

What would you add to this list?