84 Charing Cross Road (1987)
Here’s a title that could be a lot of fun for the person who shuns movies in favor of books.
Anne Bancroft stars here as a single woman living in New York in 1949. She loves to collect books. Primarily antique copies of English writers that she can’t find locally. She sends off a letter to an unknown book dealer in England and so begins our 20 year journey.
Anthony Hopkins plays the part here of our book dealer who develops a friendship with Anne by letter. The more she writes to him, the more interested Hopkins work mates become in Anne and they too write her letters. Thus the circle grows. With wartime rationing still a problem Anne begins to send crates of canned meats and other items that are not so handy in the heart of England. They in turn send her some rare titles for her collection.
The film is told in large part through the narration of the many letters that our two leads exchange and it works tremendously in developing their characters and creating an interest in them for us the viewer.
Hopkins does a wonderful job here as a rather reserved English gentleman, married to Judi Dench with whom he has two daughters.
Over the course of the 20 years the film takes us through he comes to know and love the lady he has never met in person more with each letter. Through their correspondence I think he finds that she is capable of living a life he yearns to at times. She is feisty and not above setting him straight on certain books and disappointments while he seems resigned to the hand life has dealt him.
While Dench doesn’t have too much to do here she does narrate a beautifully composed letter towards the fade out.
The film has a wonderful period flavor to it on both sides of the pond. Hopkins and company have a wonderful book store with that antique feel while in New York we get Bancroft visiting a corner store that is right out of the fifties adding to the film’s authenticity.
Credited as executive producer here is Anne’s hubby Mel Brooks while David Jones was behind the camera serving as director.
I freely admit that I enjoyed the majority of this film finding that the letter narrations worked in it’s favor. As the film neared it’s completion I did think it began to lose a little steam and left me wanting a different outcome. I won’t spoil it but do recommend the film and hope you will find another Hopkins performance to admire as much as I did.