Hampstead is based on a true story. Donald Horner (Brendan Gleeson), a proud Irishman, chooses to live a simple life in a shack he has built himself on Hampstead Heath. Donald is his ‘own man’, growing the food he needs and generating his own electricity. But developers have submitted a plan to knock down an old hospital to build luxury apartments, and they need to evict Donald, whose shack is close by.

Emily Walters (Diane Keaton), an American widow, is looking through binoculars from her attic window one day when she sees Donald being attacked by two young men. She immediately calls the police and saves Donald’s life. Emily is intrigued by Donald and, although initially reticent with each other, the two slowly build a close relationship. Much to Donald’s dismay, Emily employs the help of a local social activist (Hugh Skinner) to plead his case. When a group of activists set up camp on the Heath, Donald angrily sends them away.

After much persistence on Emily’s part, Donald eventually accepts her offer to hire a lawyer to fight his battle in court. He goes on to win his case and is given title to his home and land.


Conservation versus development; self-sufficiency


Hampstead has some violence. For example:
  • Two young men break into Donald’s shack and attack him.
  • Emily yells at her husband’s grave about the fact that he was having an affair and that he has left her with debts. She throws her shoe at the headstone.
  • Donald loses his temper a couple of times. He yells at Emily and is angry with her for getting the activists involved. He yells at the activists and pulls their signs down. Another time he throws his cup in anger.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5
Other than the violent scenes mentioned above, there is nothing in Hampstead to disturb children in this age group.

From 5-8
Other than the violent scenes mentioned above, there is nothing in Hampstead to disturb children in this age group.

From 8-13
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, Hampstead has some scenes that might disturb children in this age group. These are when Donald talks about his former partner, who died of cancer. Donald’s partner told him to leave her because he wasn’t handling her illness well (she was older than him). He did leave her and feels remorseful about it.

Over 13
Nothing of concern

Sexual references

Hampstead has some sexual references. For example:

  • A couple kisses on Hampstead Heath.
  • James (Jason Watkins) is a sleazy accountant who offers to handle Emily’s affairs ‘with no strings attached’. It’s obvious, however, that he has other intentions, because he often reaches out and touches her hand. Once he kisses Emily on the mouth.
  • Emily and Donald kiss briefly.
  • The other tenants of the apartment where Emily lives discover the bed that she and Donald have been sleeping in. It’s in the attic. James says, ‘It’s like some kind of sordid sex den’. Emily says, ‘Well you’ve found us out’ and ‘We’ve been going at it like two deranged rabbits’.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

Hampstead shows characters drinking socially on several occasions – at parties, with dinner and so on.

Nudity and sexual activity

Hampstead shows some partial nudity and sexual activity. For example:

  • Donald is shown naked from the waist up, swimming in the lake and taking a bath.
  • Donald and Emily are shown in bed together, fully clothed.

Product placement

Nothing of concern

Coarse language

There is some mild coarse language in this movie.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Hampstead is a romantic drama with light comic moments, wonderfully portrayed in British style. The ‘David and Goliath’ theme is uplifting, and the scenery of Hampstead Heath is beautiful too.

Although there’s nothing particularly scary or violent in this movie, it’s more suited to teenagers and adults because of its themes.

The main messages from this movie are to stand up and fight for what you believe, and that the simple things in life give more pleasure than money does.

You might like to talk with your children about:

  • looking after the environment and living in harmony with nature
  • not being afraid to accept help when needed
  • respecting and tolerating difference.