Hearts in Atlantis

Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Anton Yelchin, Hope Davis, David Morse, Mika Boreem
Director: Scott Hicks
Writers: William Goldman – based on the book by Stephen King

This is a tidy walk down memory lane for today’s baby boomers. Set in a small Connecticut town in 1960 when romantic dance songs filled the airwaves and every kid wanted a Schwinn bicycle, Hearts in Atlantis knows how to recreate just the right mood for this coming-of-age drama.

Anton Yelchin plays 11-year old Bobby Garfield who’s struggling to make sense of the world with only a bitter, selfish, working mother (Hope Davis as Elizabeth) for guidance. His father died some years earlier and mom uses every opportunity to badmouth him to Bobby. She denies Bobby everything, claims poverty, then spends a small fortune on beautiful dresses for herself. Best friends Sully and Carol make life more pleasant when they aren’t all dodging the local bullies. Otherwise, their days are spent hanging out in the woods, cavorting on the railroad tracks, playing in the lake or enjoying the local fair.

One day, an easy-going but mysterious man, Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins), takes the upstairs apartment at the boarding house where Bobby and his mother live. Sensing that Bobby needs a mentor, Ted hires Bobby to read the newspaper to him each day, indicating that his eyesight is failing. But, he also asks that Bobby keep alert to changes in the neighborhood and the appearance of “low men” whom he describes as suspicious types (think FBI) trying to take something away from him which is made clear later in the film. But, we do understand that whatever time Ted has left is limited and entirely dependent upon Bobby’s resourcefulness. The simple chores given to Bobby allows us to watch an important friendship grow, and in time, Ted becomes the father figure that Bobby so desperately needs.

The story is told in flashback by an adult Bobby, who after hearing of the death of his childhood pal Sully, goes back to his hometown for a visit. Seeing the now ramshackle house, Bobby reminisces about the eleventh summer of his life, of “low men” and fine friends.

Anthony Hopkins as Ted and David Morse as the adult Bobby are particularly effective. Anton Yelchin has all the makings of a good actor at this early age and will probably lose his transparency in time. Hope Davis has the unthankful job of playing a mean witch with little in the way of redemption. Mika Boreem is lovely as first girlfriend Carol Gerber.

Lotta says: It’s a quiet film that is more concerned with mood than plot points. Because on the face of it, there’s not a whole lot going on. Yet I can honestly say I liked the film, thanks to the setting, the music and the fine acting by Hopkins and Morse.

Reviewed: 9/30/01