An uncommonly and sweetly civilized adult romance between two transatlantic correspondents who never meet, 84 Charing Cross Road is an appealing film on several counts, one of the most notable being Anne Bancroft’s fantastic performance in the leading role.
Helene Hanff’s slim volume of letters between herself and a dignified antiquarian bookseller in London [originally adapted for the stage by James Roose-Evans] is the basis of the film. They began in 1949 as formal requests by the New Yorker Hanff for old books over a 20-year period into a warm, loving exchange of missives and gifts between her and much of the staff of the bookshop of Marks & Co.
Built on a basis of mutually held taste, knowledge, interests and consideration, the bond between Hanff (Bancroft) and Frank Doel (Anthony Hopkins) becomes a form of pure love, which is why the film i so touching in spots.
Although well balanced between events on both sides of the pond, story suffers from an imbalance between the active, initiating Hanff, who occasionally addresses the camera directly, and the relatively passive, inexpressive Doel. At the end, the man’s humor and high intelligence are described, but these traits are never revealed.
Anne Bancroft brings Helene Hanff alive in all her dimensions, in the process creating one of her most memorable characterizations.