|for the brief bursts of charm, wit and pathos that litter these overlong vignettes that don't have anything more to link them than their location
|Adrian Lester, Ewan McGregor, Hugh Bonneville, Mark Strong, Sophie Okonedo, Tom Hardy, Andrew Lincoln, Catherine Tate, Douglas Hodge, Eileen Atkins, Gina McKee, Holly Aird
|3rd November 2006
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
One sunny summer’s afternoon on north London’s vast and varied open space, Hampstead Heath, seven couples are coming together, falling apart or just continuing existence.
In no particular order, there’s the divorcing couple who seem to be more in love now than ever, the shallow young husband whose wife catches him staring at a French girl’s exposed underwear, the gay couple contemplating adopting a child, the lonely businessman role-playing with an escort-girl, the bumbling upper-class twit on a blind date with one of the few humans of the piece, the woman after a quick fling to get over the guy she’s just dumped and the elderly couple who discover that it’s not the first time they’ve sat on that fateful bench together.
In no particular order, because largely, the storylines are intercut, occasionally featuring characters from one walking through the background of another, just to remind us that it’s all taking place on this stunning London landmark – the neatly tended pergola gardens and Kenwood House, just a moment’s walk away from the panoramic views of Parliament Hill and the Highgate swimming ponds.
There’s no single story or theme running through this – it’s just a series of vignettes, some of them humorous and others more dramatic – but there is one single star – Hampstead Heath itself.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
There’s a lot to admire in this love-letter to the heath – from the fact that producer/director Ed Blum persuaded a tremendous cast to work for minimum wage to get his no-budget production off the ground to the fact that he even sold and distributed it himself.
Then there’s the warmth and the humour of most of the performances and the situations in which Blum places his characters.
The confidence with which Ewan McGregor injects his gay yuppie is a joy to watch and Hugh Bonneville turns in a performance every bit as cringe-worthy as David Brent on a blind date.
You’ll find yourself smiling at the charm as it oozes out of the screen in most of the featured trysts.
But you’ll leave the cinema feeling tremendously unsatisfied – it’s like going for a picnic on Hampstead Heath, only to find that you’ve forgotten the wine.
That there is no theme linking the stories makes it more of a random selections of short films – the majority of them are interesting enough for five minutes or so, but can’t sustain the amount of screen time they’re given – they’re like comedy sketches that go on for too long, fizzling out, rather than ending on a swift and witty punchline.
A case in point, the sweetest – and most revisited tale – revolves around the elderly couple, although Blum doesn’t know when to stop – the story reaches its creative climax before they start to walk up the hill, but we’ve given up all interest in them long before they reach the top, so their story becomes as much of an anti-climax for us as the view from the top is for them.
With no theme to follow, there are no lessons to be learned except the shocking revelation that every relationship is unique. And without any key character to identify with, it’s hard for us to get emotionally involved enough with any of them to care what – if anything – happens.
It’s ultimately all a bit pointless – a pleasant enough way to spend a spare hour and a half, but if the weather’s nice, it would be more enjoyable to take a ninety minute stroll across your nearest equivalent to Hampstead Heath.