Saturday, 19 January 2019
This is a film about denial, anger, loss, collusion, regret, hope, love, compromise and principles! It is a heart-warming story and although the narrative arc is predictable, the warmth of the characters draws you in and I for one, was happy to collude.
The developing love story is the unifying thread that runs throughout this film, but there is a lot more here if we peel back some of the layers. To begin with, although this film is based on a real life tussle over squatter's rights by Harry Hallowes on Hampstead Heath, it is not a documentary or biopic - it's a drama.
Would the story have worked as well anywhere else in London, say Bethnal Green, Hounslow or Croydon? No. The caché of Hampstead is an important part of the story and the pretentious lives of the characters in this film present a certain willing collusion with a desire to be part of the Hampstead set. That is what makes Fiona (Lesley Manville) and her gang appear to be only interested in seeing to be doing the right things and protecting everybody's 'best interests'.
As Emily (Diane Keaton) begins to rediscover her own identity a year after her husband's death, she is conflicted about which parts of the Hampstead lifestyle to buy into and which parts are not really her. Meanwhile the external pressures of her looming insolvency, the constant nagging of her son Philip (James Norton), the unwanted advances of her accountant James (Jason Watkins), the neighbourly intrusions of Fiona and the growing attraction of the recalcitrant, volatile and wounded rogue Donald (Brendan Gleeson) pull her in competing directions.
The way the story is told maintains the different tensions creatively and there are some wonderfully comedic moments. Diane Keaton seems an odd casting choice - perhaps to give appeal to the North American market. Brendan Gleeson however inhabits the role with such comfort, you wonder if he wouldn't mind becoming Harry Hallowes - but moving to the Galway coast!
This is a gentle film that offers many avenues for reflection and exploration. the characters are believable and deliver their comedic inter-play with accomplishment. I think this is the first time I've seen Lesley Manville playing an unlikable character and I didn't like it! This is a perfect film for an evening in with the flames flickering in the hearth and a warm glow spreading throughout the audience. I'll give it 7/10.