|"Hearts in Atlantis" Movie Review
The best movie adaptations of author Stephen King's books have been from his dramatic pieces - not his works of horror. "Stand By Me," "The Shawshank Redemption," and "The Green Mile" all translated well from the written page to the big screen. "Hearts in Atlantis" rates right up there with the best of Hollywood's efforts at bringing Stephen King's visions (twisted though they may be) to life.
"Hearts in Atlantis" is a touching tale of love, honesty, loyalty, and, ultimately, innocence lost. This movie invokes a sense of nostalgia and a yearning for those childhood friends who, as we grow older, may be forgotten but will never be replaced. "Hearts in Atlantis" introduces us to Bobby Garfield, an 11-year old whose biggest challenge is how to earn enough money to buy that killer bike that's on display at the local sporting goods store, despite his mother's efforts at keeping him from accomplishing that goal. Similar to the youthful companions in the coming-of-age classic, "Stand By Me," Bobby has two close friends who always pal around together - John Sullivan aka "Sully John," and Carol Gerber. Sully is a good guy who comes from a family better off than Bobby's, and Carol is a tomboy-ish girl who turns out to be Bobby's first great love.
Following the death of his father, Bobby's being raised alone by his hardhearted mother. His mother constantly reminds him that it's because of his father's inability to pass up an inside straight, that they are barely scrapping by and are forced to live paycheck to paycheck. Though she's able to buy herself beautiful dresses for work, she can't seem to find a spare dime to buy Bobby a decent gift for his 11th birthday. He's looking forward to a bike but receives - as his sole gift - an adult library card. Just when things are looking hopeless for Bobby, into his sterile life comes a mysterious man who moves his belongings in a paper bag, much to the chagrin of Bobby's mom.
Mr. Ted Brautigan is an enigma. He's friendly, enjoying Bobby's companionship and that of Bobby's friends, yet he reveals nothing about himself or his past. Bobby forms an immediate attachment to the strange Mr. Brautigan, finding in him the father he's sorely missing. Along with offering friendly conversation, Mr. Brautigan offers Bobby two very important jobs - jobs that will help Bobby with his purchase of that new bike he stares at through the store window every day. The first job of reading the daily newspaper outloud is relatively easily agreed upon for the princely sum of $1 per week (Bobby's mom gives in to letting him perform this service for Mr. Brautigan after some arm twisting along with a thick layer of guilt applied skillfully by Bobby). The second job is one for Bobby alone to know about, and it's of critical importance to Ted. Bobby is told to watch out for "low men." Asked the definition of "low men," Ted replies low men wear hats and travel in fancy cars. They post signs that are slightly off; signs that are strange, yet not obviously abnormal. He warns Bobby that the "low men" are coming for him (Ted) and that he'll have to leave the moment they show up. Ted has special powers of perception and the "low men" want to capture Ted because of his psychic powers.
You may be asking yourself at this point, "How is this movie considered a romance?" "Hearts in Atlantis" is - without question - a suspenseful drama, yet it's underlying theme is that of love. Ted predicts the future for Bobby, telling him that Carol, no matter how he denies it, is his love, and that their kiss will be the one by which all future kisses will be judged and found lacking. Carol and Bobby's love is one of the most innocent and pure examples of romance contained in any recent film. They do kiss, they do profess their love for each other, and Bobby does display his love for Carol in innocent, yet heroic, fashion. It's a beautiful little romance amidst strange goings-on, and it adds a warm, human touch to the film.
"Hearts in Atlantis" is an amazing film with outstanding acting by all members of the cast. While Anthony Hopkins and Hope Davis each turn in the precise performances needed to carry off their roles, the film truly belongs to the young stars, particularly Anton Yelchin. He's an incredible young man who portrays an 11-year-old-going-on-30 in a realistic, captivating manner.
Overall Grade: A-