David Jones' film of Helene Hanff's book, recording the bizarre transatlantic relationship between a New York bibilophile and a London bookseller, comes as a pleasant surprise. Though inevitably literary in tone - the letters between Hanff and the Marks employees structure the narrative - it is never less than intelligent, touching, humorous. Central to this success is the subtle contrast between the austerity of postwar London and the comparatively bright affluence of Hanff's New York; also rewarding is the way images wittily counterpoint and comment on the lovingly intoned letters. And the film somehow manages to convey Hanff's almost sensual passion for pages bound in leather and still resounding with the pleasurable reactions of previous readers. None of which qualities would be evident were it not for the performances: Hopkins as the staid, shy family man Frank P Doel, and the marvellous Bancroft, relishing the vagaries of English pronunciation, as the headstrong Ms Hanff. Thankfully, the film has nothing to do with easy nostalgia; it's about real, credible people, and as such finally becomes very moving.
Cast and crew
Jean De Baer