The reason so many of Stephen King’s books have been made into movies is that he’s a talented storyteller, creating situations where terror emerges from the unarticulated, barely submerged fears of his readers. Hearts in Atlantis (based on the stories “Low Men in Yellow Coats” and “Heavenly Shades of Night are Falling”) shows King in his sentimental mode, focusing more on character and texture, less on nail-biting plots.
Unfortunately, this coming-of-age tale with supernatural overtones contains little of the page-turning drive of King’s most compelling work, and the by-the-numbers script by screenwriting guru William Goldman (The Princess Bride, Misery) spells out each life lesson enough times to utterly quash the story’s inherent mystery.
This doesn’t stop director Scott Hicks (Shine, Snow Falling on Cedars) from creating a lovely film which succinctly encapsulates the nuances of a specific time and place, and which cinematographer Piotr Sobocinski (Three Colors: Red, Twilight) bathes in a light whose luminescent glow reflects the warmth of remembered childhood happiness.
The action takes place primarily during the summer of 1960, when Bobby Garfield (Anton Yelchin) lives in a working-class neighborhood in a leafy New England town with his mother (Hope Davis), and discovers first love with the angelic Carol Gerber (Mika Boorem). On Bobby’s 11th birthday, Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins), a new boarder with unusual gifts, arrives and quickly becomes just the kind of adult friend he needs, serving as an unconventional guide on the thorny path to adulthood.
Yelchin is often overbearingly precocious; Davis uses her underlying bitchiness to great effect as a widow who cloaks her spite as concern, and Hopkins utterly anchors the film with his authoritative solidity. He’s King’s stand-in here, putting horror aside long enough to show a boy not to be afraid of life.
Click here to visit the official Hearts in Atlantis Web site.
Serena Donadoni writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.