Hampstead, directed by Joel Hopkins, is a film that feels… hollow. I never found myself being able to fully invest in the story of this film and I think a lot of that has to do with how it presents its story and who within that story is given the primary focus. I was expecting something sweet, small and comforting, but instead what I got was something that failed to ever elicit any meaningful emotion from me. But why was that the case? Well let’s get explore that question and some other ones in this review, shall we?
Emily Walters – played by Diane Keaton – is a struggling widow who has been left with debts that she can’t deal with. She is also living next to people who she finds to be erroneously unpleasant. But things begin to change for Emily when she happens to befriend, Donald Horner – played by Brendan Gleeson – a man who lives in a self-built home in Hampstead Heath – a largely unused piece of land. But of course re-development of the area is wanted and that means Donald has to move-on so that new ‘Luxury Apartments’ can be built. This possibly life changing problem is what will bring Emily and Donald together and foster a new relationship between the two of them.
Hampstead comes bearing an interesting character; one with a unique and interesting every-day existence and whose past is mysterious, which again makes them interesting. Unfortunately though, they are not the primary focus of the film. Instead, Hampstead is front-loaded – in fact it is just over-loaded – with a character who is not that interesting; someone whose life is mundane, uninteresting and difficult to connect with or sympathise with. Emily Walters (Diane Keaton) is for some reason the person who receives the most amount of time on-screen and is the person who slowly but surely saw me disconnecting from the experience that this film tried to create for me.
For me, Emily was a character who just felt removed from reality – which is ironic because Donald is someone who lives in the woods in a self-sustaining environment – but for me, she just didn’t seem like someone who was worthy of so much time on-screen. It’s difficult to connect with someone or care about their struggles when one of their primary problems is that they might have to move out of their swanky, up-market flat – oh no, how unfortunate for you. Emily never felt like someone who had any real problems, I never worried that she was on her last life-line and if she didn’t fix it, she would be out on the streets with nothing left. She was someone who just seemed to float through life not really caring about the things around her – except that nice looking hat she saw in the shop window, that was apparently worthy of two separate scenes.
And it doesn’t help that the performance by, Diane Keaton is… well not the best. She telegraphed every emotion; every thought. There was no subtlety to her delivery. There was no nuance to anything she did. If she had a reaction to something, it was wildly overblown. If she had a thought, she would say it out loud so that you knew exactly what was going on inside her head. It meant that I never felt I had to pay attention and try to pick up on any little performance clues because I knew that everything would be told/expressed to me in such a blatant way, that thinking for myself was unnecessary and pointless.
Meanwhile, Brendan Gleeson not only delivers his usual enjoyable, reliable performance, but he also plays a character that has some substance to him. Unfortunately, much (if not all) of his time on-screen is marred by Keaton/Emily. I wanted to learn more about why he chose to live in such an unusual and secluded place. I wanted to learn more about his every day. I just wanted to know more about this person who had some very defined ways of living and thinking, but the film just didn’t give it to me (not enough anyway).
Beyond the two main characters you have a film that is mundane, predictable and wholly uninteresting. I found myself drifting off once or twice, as the film was just completely unable to hold my attention. It also doesn’t help that I was able to predict and then watch play-out a plot that at no point surprises you and at no point sets itself apart from other films that are like this one.
It just goes along with the motions and makes sure to deliver the most sterile, dull experience you can imagine. And then it went and just flat-out annoyed me by having an unnecessary plot point in the last few minutes of the film where it threw in a blatantly forced conflict between, Emily and Donald. It was lazy in its execution and it felt completely pointless.
In the end, Hampstead was a film that failed to achieve anything. It was dull, forgetful and at no single point did it ever elicit a meaningful emotional response from me. I simply slumped into my chair and waited for the mundanity to end.
This might shock you but I will not be recommending, Hampstead. There are plenty of other films worth seeing right now and I implore you to go see any of them. Trust me; you won’t miss anything if you pass this one by.
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