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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hampstead is a dramedy about a lonely woman (Diane Keaton) who helps a man (Brendan Gleeson) who's "living wild" in London's Hampstead Heath gain the legal rights to his home. Though it's far more likely to appeal to adults than to teens or kids, it's warm-hearted and sweet. The main characters have a supportive, loving romantic relationship, and a marginalized man is shown as dignified, self-sufficient, and worthy of respect. Violence is almost nil, save for one scene in which a man is hit and knocked down (the action is shown in a blurry shot from a great distance). Sex is similarly muted: Characters spend time together and give each other friendly kisses, and a fully clothed couple cuddles in bed. Language is infrequent but includes "s--t," "bastard," "arse," and "bloody"; one woman calls another a "whore." Adults drink at gatherings and meals; no one acts drunk, but in one scene, a woman says she's had "too much" wine, and a man pours her more over her protests. One character in particular, a wealthy developer's wife, is a bit stereotypical, but most of the characters are thoughtful and kind -- they make mistakes but apologize for them, and receive forgiveness. Based on a true story, the movie may spark conversations about the teamwork and perseverance demonstrated by the characters in their legal battle.
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What's the story?
In the quiet neighborhood that surrounds the famous London green space known as HAMPSTEAD Heath, Emily Walters (Diane Keaton) is living a lonely life after her husband's death. She spends her days volunteering in a charity shop and kibitzing with her snobby neighbors, not sure what direction her life will take next but equally unsure where the money to fund any new direction will come from. When she meets Donald Horner (Brendan Gleeson), a man who's made a small corner of the heath his wilderness home, she suddenly starts to care about something -- and someone -- again. This movie is based on the true story of Harry Hallowes, a man who sued to retain a half-acre of the Hampstead Heath in 2007.
Is it any good?
Quietly gorgeous, this film makes up for a certain lack of dramatic fireworks with an endearing cast and an easy-to-love story about underdogs who come into the happiness they deserve. Though Keaton is as appealing as she ever was as Emily, when the film opens, she's feeling utterly adrift, facing both debts and doubts about how great her marriage really was. "I have no skills," she sums up to her faintly condescending adult son. "I have no value to offer anyone." Yet, of course, that turns out to be utterly untrue when she makes the acquaintance of the bristly Donald.
Even though he wishes, Shrek-like, to live on his abandoned piece of land free from human contact, "progress" has found Donald's spot, and greedy neighborhood developers plan to put luxury flats right where he's built his home out of recycled "bits and bobs." The developers, in the velvet-glove form of Emily's scheming neighbor, Fiona (Lesley Manville, just as deliciously evil in modern-day dress as she is in corsets and a wig in Harlots), want Emily to fall in with their plans -- but Emily resists, noting everything that's noble about the big unshaven lug of a fellow, who proudly affirms that living "wild" allows him to be his own man. As unconventional romances go, Hampstead's got heart. And even if you know at all times where the drama's headed, you don't mind going along.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stereotypes. Would you consider Hampstead's characters stereotypical? Why do filmmakers fall back on using common character types? Which characters transcend their stereotypes in this movie? Do any of these characters make worthy role models?
Hollywood often pairs disgruntled men with kind women who are depicted as softening them. What do you make of this cliché? How does it play out here?
What audience do you think this movie is aimed at? How can you tell?
- In theaters: June 14, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: June 14, 2019
- Cast: Diane Keaton, Brendan Gleeson, Hugh Skinner
- Director: Joel Hopkins
- Studio: IFC
- Genre: Drama
- Character strengths: Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some suggestive material and language
- Last updated: November 13, 2019
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