Hampstead is loosely based on the true story of Harry Hallowes, who lived on Hamstead Heath in a shack for many years. Because he had lived there for so long, Harry famously claimed squatters rights. After a lengthy court case, he won the rights to the land located in one of the most affluent areas of London. At the time the land was valued at over two million pounds making Harry an instant millionaire.
This dramatised version of Harry's tale introduces the element of romance. This comes from an American widow named Emily whos house overlooks the heath. Emily has lost her way somewhat and drifts from day to day. Surrounded by judgmental socialite friends who she is becoming more detached from. She befriends the tramp living on the Heath, forming a strong relationship that turns into a chalk and cheese tale of true love.
Directed by Joel Hopkins and written by Robert Festinger, it has a similar feel to the films of Richard Curtis. However, this film has a simple honesty to it that some of those films miss. Festinger's screenplay tells the story beautifully, providing depth to the two lead characters. Hopkins does a great job getting the most of the scenery, it has to be said the whole film is shot incredibly well.
The cast has the usual faces that seem to crop up in most British films like Simon Cowell and Jason Watkins. But all of the credit has to go to the two leads played by Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson. Keaton plays her part perfectly, a character that reflects back on the other twee English characters weaved through the story. The brilliant Brendan Gleeson does yet another perfect job playing the tramp living on the heath. Usually, we see Gleeson playing hard characters. But here we get to see him shine playing a thoroughly lovable character, who you would genuinely like as a friend of your own.
Yes, this is very cheesy and a little far fetched at times. Let's say, I think the real-life Harry Hallowes did not find himself romancing someone like Diane Keaton. But as a story of two people in later life finding love in unexpected ways goes. Hampstead does have an honest charm about it. So if you are looking for something that is heartwarming with an honest feel-good factor, give Hamstead a go.