The film, starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins is based upon the autobiographical epistolary novelette by Helene Hanff of the same title.

The book consists of letters between Helene Hanff, a New York script-writer, and Frank Doel, a senior employee at Marks and Cohen Antiquarian bookstore at 84 Charing Cross Road, London. Their letters progress from formal orders and invoices to familiarity and intimate friendship. Set in the time period of post World War Two through 1970, the story explores how friendship can develop between two people -- with wildly different personalities, and from wildly different cultures -- who have never met in person.

I find the story noteworthy for two reasons. First, it does a wonderful job describing the culture and romance of antiquarian books. The film does a particularly good job of describing the appeal of old books and book shops, from the feeling of camaraderie when a used book opens to the favorite page of a previous owner, to the look and smell of an antiquarian book store. It is vaguely like the book and film High Fidelity, in the sense that the latter explores the culture of music collectors, but they are radically different in tone and style.

Second, the communications and relationship between Hanff and Doel have relevant parallels to internet culture, and make the story worth a read and the film worth a viewing on those grounds alone. Despite the technology we play with, the essential humanity of communication is unchanged.

The dialog and humor are gentle, and the pacing is slow, which makes this a very relaxing film to watch. It also presents an interesting view of life both in New York and London, particularly in the post-war era. It also features admirable performances by Judi Dench and Mercedes Ruehl.

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