- Movie Rating -

84 Charing Cross Road (1987)

| February 13, 1987

84 Charing Cross Road is a prime illustration of the difficulty of making a movie about people who like to read books.  It’s like writing, you can’t really visualize it since it’s such an insular activity.  You can make a movie about people who share a love of the printed word and, in this case, London, but I’m afraid that again this is not it.  I don’t mean to sound churlish.  There is a large audience that has fallen for this material – it was a hit play and a best-selling book where I somehow feel that the material possibly worked better.

The story takes place in London just before World War II, after the blitz and when food rationing became a necessity.  In spite of this, a local book seller named Frank Doel (Anthony Hopkins) receives a wish list from a woman in New York named Helena Hanff (Anne Bancroft) who is a great lover of books but generally cannot afford the ones that she desires most.  Doel sends her a package full of good readable copies of the books that she cannot afford and this sets off a correspondence that last more than two decades.

What comes in between is, I guess, a love story between two people who never meet.  She is a lonely woman in New York and he is a shop owner in London whose marriage is padded with cold indifference.  Late in the film, much too late, she does go to London.  I won’t say what happens but the words “too little too late” come to mind.  I wasn’t moved by what she found because she’d never been there before and had never met the man who was suppose to be there. 

There was a stilled emptiness to the end of this film that, in another medium, might have drawn a much more potent emotional payoff.  I’m not being dismissive but there was something about this movie that didn’t move me, that on the page might have worked better.  As it is, I wasn’t moved.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1987) View IMDB Filed in: Drama