Newtown in fifty years


So is this what Newtown will look like in fifty years? Are these the sort of people who will live there?

Believe it or not, but twee upmarket Hampstead in North London was once a hip bohemian enclave favoured by writers and artists, much like Newtown is (was – surely no one actually believes that  “Keep Newtown Weird” slogan any more). Hampstead today, like so much of the inner west, is inhabited by people like mildly kooky Emily (Diane Keaton, here in a beret and designer specs) and her neighbours – well off, well-dressed, greying boomers who sign petitions against phone towers and fish farms while being not-so-secretly obsessed by real estate. And it’s just so right that Annie Hall, that daffy hippie-ish waif of the 70s is now an American widow living in a fashionably retro-chic flat over-looking Hampstead Heath.  Also that she has a shaky grasp of finances now that hubby has died leaving her all his business debts, because she so obviously spent her entire adult life as a daffy kept hippie.

That’s alluded to in the script, “I’ve wasted so much time,” Annie Hall (sorry, Emily) muses in the charity shop she works as an unpaid volunteer at. Meanwhile living in some vacant land joining the Heath is “Harry” (none other than Brendan Gleeson), the world’s cleanest, and most erudite and all-round nicest homeless man. Annie Hall (ok, “Emily”) befriends him while he reads poetry by the grave of Karl Marx at Highgate cemetery (I’m not making this up), then before long, much to the horror of her toffy neighbours and snotty adult son, they’re in the cot together exploring each other’s age-spots.

He’s being evicted from his spotless shack in the woods by evil developers (boo, hiss), a “shack” complete with a well-stocked bookshelf (items shoplifted from Pentimento?). But not if Emily has anything to do with it! Since she’s supposed to be broke, it’s not explained where the money for the barrister who defends his squatters rights comes from, but anyway, Harry does get to eloquently explain the sheer rightness of his zero-carbon lifestyle to a pompous judge. Earlier we’ve seen him carrying a pile of firewood and fishing for his dinner in the Heath’s ponds. If he had actually lived that way for 17 years, let alone any others had too, all the Heath’s trees would have been clear-felled for fuel long ago and its fish stock completely depleted, right?

WestConnex protestors find a new cause

But then, like that Newtown slogan (actually invented by its Chamber of Commerce) there isn’t a shred of reality anywhere in this film. There is a slight twist to the way it predictably plays out, but I won’t spoil it, just in case I haven’t done that already… Just remember, Keep Newtown Weird! And expensive! PG from Aug 17 at Dendy Newtown (of course it is) and Palace Norton St.

Review – Russell Edwards