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Hearts in Atlantis (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

Hearts in Atlantis


Starring Anthony Hopkins, Anton Yelchin, David Morse, Hope Davis, Mika Boorem, Alan Tudyk, Tom Bower and Celia Weston.

Screenplay by William Goldman.

Directed by Scott Hicks.

Distributed by Castle Rock Entertainment.  101 minutes.   Rated PG-13.

There are two kinds of Stephen King stories.  There are the horror films full of supernatural forces and death.  But there is also a series of King’s work that take nicely nostalgic looks back at life in the life fifties and early sixties.  The horrific stories almost never work as a movie (they work much better in the expanded context of miniseries like The Stand and Storm of the Century.)  But his best movies have always been based on his subtler nostalgic fare, like Stand by Me, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.

Nicely directed in sepia tones by Scott Hicks (Shine), Hearts in Atlantis falls comfortably into this category.  It has all the trademarks of these movies, a frame story of the young protagonist as an older man (David Morse) becoming nostalgic for that long ago summer, the period clothing and music and the slightly whitewashed view of life before the Beatles.  Morse becomes misty-eyed when a childhood friend, part of a trio of close friends, dies unexpectedly (strangely, the dead boy is barely acknowledged in the coming flashbacks.)

Bobby Garfield (Anton Yelchin) is an eleven-year-old outcast who has been moving from city to city with his bitter, widowed mother (Hope Davis is just wonderful in the role.)   Anthony Hopkins plays a mysterious older man who moves upstairs and befriends Bobby, teaching him about baseball, literature and girls.  And not too much else happens… oh you, have the King standby plots of the three losers fighting off bullies and first love with a little girl and the mother dealing with a lecherous boss.

It is all very nice and stately and enjoyable, you almost don’t notice not much is happening.   As always in a King story, there is some supernatural element… in this film it is that Hopkins is being hunted by the “low men,” a bunch of shadowy men in dark suits and dark cars that seem to have come from a German expressionist gangster film. In the end they are just a McGuffin, though, they really play no part in the film other than to explain Hopkins having to leave the boy alone.  But that’s okay, too.  Hearts in Atlantis isn’t as good as the other King nostalgia films above, but it’s a nice little story told well.  (10/01)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2001 All rights reserved. Posted: October 5, 2001.

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