Review: HAMPSTEAD Is Sweet But Insubstantial

hampstead field
Diane Keaton as “Emily Walters” and Brendan Gleeson as “Donald Horner” in Joel Hopkins’s Hampstead. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films release.

Hampstead is a new British comedy-drama film written by Robert Festinger (In the Bedroom) and directed by Joel Hopkins (The Love Punch). It follows a recently widowed American woman (Diane Keaton) living in Britain who finds unexpected love with a squatter living on Hampstead Heath (Brendan Gleeson) when they decide to team up to fight the developers wanting to destroy his home.

This movie’s issues begin with the fact that the story is so predictable. There have been a ton of senior-aimed dramedies like this to come out recently, and this film does not do enough to differentiate itself from the others, especially since Keaton has starred in a handful of them herself. There are some hints of narrative potential in the story, but ultimately, it feels too contrived and unoriginal to be very interesting.

The characters in the movie are likable enough, and there is (barely) enough to like about their relationship, but the characters aren’t developed enough on an individual level to make them memorable. We get glimpses into the protagonist’s past when we see her with her son, but this subplot isn’t explored to the extent that it should have been. Her love interest, on the other hand, is given next to no backstory.

Ultimately, the film also suffers from the fact that it feels relatively dry. There are a handful of cute or sweet moments throughout, but not nearly enough to justify the rest of the movie. The runtime isn’t particularly long — just under and hour and forty-five minutes — but it feels much longer because so much of the film drags. There needed to be significantly more humor for the movie to work well.

hampstead walk
Diane Keaton as “Emily Walters” and Brendan Gleeson as “Donald Horner” in Joel Hopkins’s Hampstead. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films release.

The film does have a noble theme of standing up for what you believe is right, and perhaps this is the reason why the talent signed on to be a part of this movie. In a way, the film is about freedom and rights, which are things that have been dominating the political landscape as of late. Does the movie do anything significant with those themes? Not really, but it does discuss them.

On a technical level, the film isn’t bad, but it doesn’t really do anything to stand out either. It’s a shame that the movie didn’t do more to take advantage of its setting, as the film takes place in a small British village with great architecture and scenery. It just feels like this movie didn’t take advantage of some of the resources it had at its disposal.

The only part of the film that is legitimately noteworthy is the cast. Keaton and Gleeson have great chemistry together and are the reason that the movie will get most of its attention. Gleeson is particularly enjoyable in his role, as he looks like he is having fun and cutting loose. Keaton is giving pretty much the same turn that she gives in any other geriatric romance, but she does it pretty well, so that can be forgiven.

Overall, Hampstead wasn’t a particularly bad film — it just didn’t do much to stand out either. Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson are great together, but there really isn’t any other reason to see this movie.

Hampstead hits theaters and VOD on June 14.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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