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Watched: 6 December

Well-meaning, straightforward and lighthearted London comedy drama, in which Diane Keaton’s Hampstead-dwelling American falls for the resourceful Donald (Brendan Gleeson), a man who lives in a shack in a small corner of Hampstead Heath. It’s based partly on the real-life case of Harry Hallowes, who set up camp and on the Heath and challenged property developers who tried to oust him, but I suspect we’re getting the polished, feel-good side of that tale here; for one thing Hallowes is an ordinary-looking fellow who shares little of Gleeson’s rugged good looks, but never mind – it’s hardly the first time a role has been cast like this, and let’s be honest, Gleeson isn’t exactly George Clooney, either.

I suppose it’ll delight certain non-British audiences with its carefully-chosen glimpses of the quaint cafes and shops of the area, as well as those lovely views of the city centre from nearby Primrose Hill. However, I didn’t feel that there was an attempt to whitewash an entire area of London here, though the cast are very prominently white and upper-middle class; I’m not sure whether that’s representative of Hampstead today or not as it’s a number of years since I’ve been there, but I imagine it’s still a bit of an enclave for the well-to-do. There’s no sign of any gay men cruising on the Heath, though, rather disappointingly, but then much of the film is set right on one particular edge of the expanse, and that may all take place somewhere else entirely. Anyway… it’s genteel and I presume it found a ready and willing older audience, but I found it pretty dull, plus it’s a shame to see two great actors muddling their way through a below-par script that fails to make much use of their combined talent. (*½)


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