Cert: 12A; Now showing
It can be hard to forecast where Brendan Gleeson will turn up next. In the last couple of years alone, the burly giant of Irish acting has narrated a feature documentary and appeared in a video game adaptation, not to mention everything in between. Hampstead, a rom-com based in the leafy London suburb, finds Gleeson wading into lighter territory and showing there is very little the 62-year-old can’t pull off.
Modest to a fault, he’d probably put much of the effect down to his opposite number here, Diane Keaton, and he’d be partly right. The pair make for such an unlikely duo — Gleeson as Donald, a man living off-grid in a shack on Hampstead Heath, Keaton as lonely local divorcee Emily — that a gently bubbling chemistry takes hold, a kind of Beauty and the Beast for the bus-pass generation.
Director Joel Hopkins plays up to this all the time as he plonks the two leads in a very Richard Curtis-esque environ of gushing window boxes, cheery shop assistants and hoity-toity busybodies who can’t see what matters in life.
Emily, recovering from a philandering ex-husband and low on true friends, locates exactly what she needs in Donald, whom she notices one day from her loft window. That Donald is facing eviction by dastardly developers only quickens Emily’s sense of fulfilment. Love blooms and all sorts of snobby sensibilities fire off around the couple.
With the arrival of summer, there is very much a place for light, breezy saunters such as Hampstead that won’t trouble the awards season but are filled with twinkling smiles, reliable tropes and jaunty music. It’s cloyingly cute and idyllic at times — but worth it for the two heavyweights centre-stage.
Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson in a scene from Hampstead