Hearts in Atlantis

Watch Hearts in Atlantis for the performances more than the story itself. Based on two of the short stories in Stephen King's Hearts in Atlantis collection, the movie is a nostalgic look back at childhood mixed in with some supernatural elements. Anchored by a wonderfully low-key performance by Anthony Hopkins (Hannibal, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas), Hearts in Atlantis moves at a leisurely pace, evoking memories of the endless days of being a kid. It all begins when Robert Garfield (David Morse, Proof of Life, Bait) returns home for a funeral of a childhood friend. This prompts him to start reminiscing about the summer when he was eleven.

That was the year summer that Ted Brautigan (Hopkins) moved into his house. Brautigan was renting the room upstairs. Robert (as a youth, played by Anton Yelchin, Along Came a Spider, 15 Minutes) lived alone with his widowed mother Elizabeth (Hope Davis, Joe Gould's Secret, Arlington Road). Robert's days consists of playing with his friends Carol (Mika Boorem, Along Came a Spider, The Patriot) and Sully (Will Rothhaar, Love and Sex, Fail Safe). Robert's dream is to get a brand new bike, but Elizabeth says that they have no money because of his father's gambling debts. Oddly enough, she has enough money to constantly buy new clothes.

Salvation for Robert comes in the form of Brautigan. He offers to pay Robert one dollar a week to read the paper. Brautigan becomes both a friend a surrogate father to Robert. Yet, he also seems distant at times. Oblivious to the world, he will stare off into space for a few moments. As the two become closer, Robert becomes more worried. Brautigan confides in him that mysterious 'low men' are looking for him, and Robert begins noticing some peculiarities about Brautigan's behavior, and his spells become longer. William Goldman's (The General's Daughter, Absolute Power) adaptation retains the spirit of the source material. This is all about a boy turning into a man. Yelchin gives a surprisingly good performance that never wavers, except for some emotional points near the end that he is does not handle that well. It's fine, because it would be hard for anybody his age to do so. Davis is also good, although at times if feels as if she is reacting to events around her instead of acting.

Robert must deal with everything that young boys must deal with. Girls, loss, and learning that one's parents are not always perfect. Director Scott Hicks (Snow Falling on Cedars, Shine) brings all this together delicately, almost too delicately at times. In wanting to capture the emotion of the characters, Hicks lets the pace of the movie wander. The character development is there, but there does not seem to be much depth to the story. Plotlines are underdeveloped and never fully fleshed out, leaving audiences with a sense of something missing.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 41 minutes, Rated PG-13 for violence and thematic elements.

Back to Movies