Hearts in Atlantis tells a story of friendship showing the trials involved in growing up. Such themes may seem simple and generic, but the majestic presentation of these themes in the new film give it an enduring quality – endearing it to its audience.
The death of a childhood friend brings Bobby Garfield (David Morse) back to a small town in Connecticut where he grew up. He reminisces about the summer of his 11th birthday. The young Bobby, played by Anton Yelchin (Along Came A Spider), is disappointed that his self-obsessed mother could not afford to get him a new bike, even though she has plenty of money to buy new dresses. His only knowledge of his dead father comes through her negative and bitter comments about him.
Bobby spends all his time with his friends Sully (Will Rathoor) and Carol (Mika Boorem), who is the epitome of a perfect and innocent young girl. When Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) comes to rent the upstairs room in his home, Bobby becomes fascinated with his mysterious houseguest and quickly befriends him. Brautigan becomes a sort of father figure for Bobby and opens him up to a world not clouded by his mother (Hope Davis).
The mystery of Brautigan grows when Bobby discovers that the old man has the power to see into people’s minds. He employs Bobby to be on the lookout for “low men,” a group of shady characters who seek to exploit his ability.
But the “low men” are not the focus of the story. The more engaging part of the story is Ted and Bobby’s relationship. Braunigan stirs things up and brings more honesty into Bobby and his mother’s relationship.
Hearts in Atlantis is based on five stories written by Stephen King, but mostly from the short story “Low Men in Yellow Coats.”
The coming-of-age theme, similar to Stand By Me, combines with supernatural elements, a la The Green Mile. The adapted screenplay, written by King and William Goldman (The General’s Daughter) flows easily without a wasted word. Narration normally needed in a nostalgic story of this kind becomes unnecessary due to spectacular writing and the direction of Scott Hicks (Snow Falling on Cedars). The plot is simple, but the characters make the story so entertaining that there is no need for complexity. It is the simplicity of the themes that make it so enjoyable.
There are only two flaws in this film: the occasional line that Carol or Bobby speaks that seems too mature for someone their age and the undeveloped character of friend Sully, who stays on the sidelines.
Aside from two main disappointments, Hearts in Atlantis is a quality film. It evokes laughter and tears as it follows Bobby through his first love and the loss of his innocence in what he refers to as “the last summer of my childhood.”
Hearts in Atlantis is in theaters Friday.