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USA 2001
Directed by
Scott Hicks
101 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Hearts In Atlantis

Although similar to his previous film, Snow Falling On Cedars (1999), in being based on a literary text, this time a collection of two novellas and three short stories by Stephen King, with top drawer cinematography from Piotr Sobocinski and music from Michael Danna and with highly-regarded Anthony Hopkins and Hope Davis topping the cast list, Scott Hicks’s next film Hearts in Atlantis isn’t as effective as its predecessor.

Partly this is because the film doesn’t explore the ethical and moral resonances of life and death events but instead tells a coming-of-age story with a twist of the supernatural. It is nevertheless quite an engaging effort only wandering into the conventional in its latter stages.

Anton Yelchin plays Bobby, an 11-year-old whose father died when he was five leaving him with a mother (Hope Davis) who struggles, slightly desperately, to bring him up alone. One day the world as he knows it is changed when a man, Ted Brautigan ( Hopkins), becomes a boarder in the upstairs apartment at Bobby's house. Bobby is intrigued, his mother is suspicious of him yet she leaves him at home a lot. Ted is quiet but companionable offering Bobby a dollar a week to read him the newspaper. Ted also asks Bobby to keep a lookout for Low Men, who are seeking Ted because of his gift as a psychic, an ability Bobby also possesses.

Although I have not read King’s original text he is, needless to say, a skilled story-teller and the adaptation by veteran scriptwriter William Goldman provides a perfect vehicle for describing Bobby’s exploration of the mysteries and dangers of the adult world with Ted functioning as a surrogate father.

Hearts in Atlantis is a film that wouldn’t be made today without significant changes because of the intimate, albeit non-sexual relationship between Ted and Bobby. In this respect Hopkins was an excellent choice for the character who connects with Bobby like a messenger sent from beyond rather than a paedophile on the loose. Davis, as ever, convinces as Bobby’s naïvely irresponsible mother.

Russian-born Yelchin is very effective as Bobby (the film boosted an already impressive screen career that was cut short in a 2016 accident) but having David Morse play him as an adult is a distraction. An unfamiliar face would have been more suitable particularly in the closing chapter.




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