Hearts In Atlantis


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Nostalgia is a killer. It can destroy you with the love that's lost. And there's nothing more golden than America in the Fifties when the dream was real and childhood stayed summer forever and The Lone Ranger was on TV.

Hearts In Atlantis is sentimental in a good way. It's slow-moving and sweet-tasting.

Bobby (Anton Yelchin) is just 11. He lives with his mom (Hope Davis), because his dad is dead. There's no money for a birthday bike, but Bobby is good about that. He has his friends, Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully (Will Rothhaar). They do everything together.

One day, Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves into the room upstairs as a lodger and Bobby's mom says, "I trust him as far as I could sling a piano." But then she's like that about most things, complaining and not believing people. Ted pays Bobby a dollar a week to read him the important stuff in the newspaper because he says his eyesight is going. Bobby says, "There must be more to it than just reading the paper. What's the real job?"

Of course, there is something else. Bobby must tell Ted if he sees any "low men" in black cars hanging around the neighbourhood. Bobby wants to know what "low men" are and Ted says they wear dark clothes and big hats.

Carol calls Ted "strange". Bobby doesn't mind. He knows that if these "low men" come, Ted will travel on, and so doesn't say anything when he sees evidence of their presence. The strangeness that Carol feels is not frightening. It's like Ted knows things noone else knows, as if he has a window into their lives.

William Goldman has adapted two of Stephen King's short stories to create a script that has the feel of Stand By Me. Neither he, nor Aussie director Scott Hicks (Shine, Snow Falling On Cedars), emphasise the psychic weirdness of Ted's gift. They are thinking about Bobby, what it's like for him to kiss Carol for the first time on the Ferris wheel and have a real proper grown-up friend. Until the "low men" come. When everything changes.

Nostalgia is thicker than blood. Yelchin has a unique talent. He conveys subtle child emotions with an ease and accuracy that is uncanny. Hopkins plays deep from the long grass, hinting at dormant strength, allowing the character of Ted to suggest all kinds of secrets.

Spooky? A little sad, maybe, now that those days are gone.

Reviewed on: 07 Mar 2002
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Hearts In Atlantis packshot
Anthony Hopkins is a psychic lodger in the Fifties home of 11-year-old Anton Yelchin.
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Director: Scott Hicks

Writer: William Goldman, based on short stories by Stephen King

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Anton Yelchin, Hope Davis, Mika Boorem, David Morse, Will Rothhaar

Year: 2001

Runtime: 101 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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Stand By Me