Noth­ing hill

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HAMP­STEAD Di­rected by Joel Hop­kins. Star­ring Diane Keaton, Bren­dan Glee­son, Les­ley Manville, Jason Watkins, James Nor­ton, Hugh Skin­ner, Phil Davis, Adeel Akhtar. 12A cert, gen re­lease, 102 min

So how far can you get on good will alone? On this ev­i­dence, no fur­ther than the pretty pas­try shop at the bot­tom of Richard Cur­tis Gar­dens. No­body with any­thing other than ice in their soul could fail to be en­tranced at the no­tion of a ro­man­tic com­edy star­ring Bren­dan Glee­son and Diane Keaton. Just look at that lovely still of them sit­ting idyl­li­cally on Hamp­stead Heath. Now wave it in front of your eyes for an hour or two. That experience will be richer than any­thing in Joel Hop­kins’s un­der­pow­ered screen filler.

The film is based – pretty loosely, I’m bet­ting – on the true story of a squat­ter, Harry Hal­lowes, who re­ally did win the rights to his shack on the Heath. The charm­ing, mud­dled Emily (Amer­i­can for no other rea­son than she is played by Diane Keaton) finds her­self in rel­a­tive fi­nan­cial straits af­ter the death of her English hus­band. She is so poor she may be forced to move away from stink­ing rich neigh­bours to some­where in­hab­ited by the merely in­de­cently loaded.

Why this should worry her is not en­tirely clear. Al­most all her friends seem ghastly. Les­lie Manville plays a snob whose ma­lig­nity is no more sub­tly con­veyed than that of the posh peo­ple in her old pal Mike Leigh’s films. Jason Watkins smarms around her as an ac­coun­tant with in­ten­tions.

Of course, these aw­ful peo­ple want to knock down the smelly old Ir­ish­man’s shed and build a plush apart­ment com­plex. But Diana has met this Don­ald (for, bizarrely it is Bren­dan) and she has be­gun to warm to his case and to him.

Keaton and Glee­son are grand. The chem­istry is not quite ex­plo­sive, but it siz­zles a bit. Most ev­ery­thing sur­round­ing them is a disaster. Shame­lessly seek­ing to ape the ur­ban par­adise of Cur­tis’s Not­ting

Hill, the film-mak­ers look to have spent as much ef­fort on back­ground colour as on fine-tun­ing the script. Young peo­ple in nice shirts sell be­spoke olives in the back­ground of every sec­ond scene. Even Don­ald’s self-con­structed cabin looks no less lovely than the av­er­age trusta­far­ian’s shag pad.

In its later stages, as Don­ald’s court case be­gins, the film does make some ef­fort to ad­dress so­cial in­equal­ity in richer London bor­oughs, but, com­ing so soon af­ter the Gren­fell Tower fire, that plot­line ends up feel­ing shal­low and un­com­fort­able.

Less se­ri­ous is the strange is­sue of the male lead’s fore­name. This writer can at­test that al­most no­body from the Repub­lic of Ire­land is called Don­ald. The char­ac­ter seems to have been so named to ac­com­mo­date one bad joke. See if you can work out what it is. (Re­mem­ber Don­ald could be de­scribed “a tramp”.) DON­ALD CLARKE

Diane Keaton and Bren­dan Glee­son in Hamp­stead

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