It might stretch the plausibility test, but this movie of charm and hope comes as welcome respite from the daily gormlessness of uncivil society. Topical, too, for our state government, in dealing with those who have pitched their tents in Martin Place in protest at the widening gap between privilege and struggle street, has hurriedly passed legislation that virtually makes it a crime to be homeless. Not that Donald (Brendan Gleeson) is actually homeless.
He lives in a shed in a corner of London’s much-loved Hampstead Heath, but he is under the pump from the suits and developers who want him gone. Across the road lives Emily (Diane Keaton), an American widow whom the film’s costume department insists on dressing as Annie Hall, with scarves and beret. You would have to be particularly slow on the uptake to not think from the start that they will end up together, but it’s not the destination but the journey that matters. Since the death of her husband, Emily’s busybody friend in the downstairs apartment, Fiona (Lesley Manville), has been trying to set her up with a new bloke. When Emily accepts the offer of James (Jason Watkins) to be her financial adviser, Fiona believes that her mission has been accomplished. But Emily strikes up a close relationship with Donald.
It is odd that their paths should never have crossed before this, both of them having lived within a stone’s throw of each other for years. Robert Festinger’s script is unbothered by the anomaly, so we needn’t be either, and director Joel Hopkins is primarily concerned with getting the odd couple together as smoothly as possible. Compensating for a romance that is a tad bland, Manville’s sugary bitchiness and Watkins’s laugh-out-loud portrayal of the self-deluded suitor lift proceedings above the ordinary. Striking a blow for the outsider against the establishment is a worthy theme, but Donald and Emily are not exactly down and outs and their fate might seem a bit twee to the ghost of Karl Marx, near whose grave they picnic.