Hearts in Atlantis (12)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner03/08/2002

Two out of five stars
Running time: 101 mins

Overly sentimental, uneven mix of coming-of-age drama and supernatural thriller, this has great performances by the two children but is ultimately uninvolving.

Hearts in Atlantis was the "surprise" film at last year’s London Film Festival, where it was greeted by a chorus of ‘boo’s and at least one anguished cry of ‘Noooooo!’ Admittedly, it’s not quite as bad as that, but given the pedigree of the talent involved, it should have been a lot better.

The film is adapted from two Stephen King short stories (Heavenly Shades of Light Are Falling and Low Men In Yellow Coats) and written by Hollywood screenwriting guru William Goldman, who also adapted Misery.

It’s also directed by Scott Hicks, who made Shine and has a superb cast, including newcomer Anton Yelchin and almost-newcomer Mika Boorem (who played the young Drew Barrymore in Riding In Cars With Boys and completely stole the film).

The film is set in the 1950s. Young Bobby (Yelchin) lives with his widowed mother (the excellent Hope Davis, who doesn’t do nearly enough films), where they are struggling with gambling debts left to them by her dead husband.

To that end, they take in a lodger, which is where Ted Brautigan (Hopkins) comes in. However, no sooner has he moved in, than he starts coming over all mystical, telling Bobby -to his horror- that he’ll share his first kiss with his best friend Carol (Mika Boorem), staring off into space for minutes at a time and recruiting Bobby to keep an eye on the neighbourhood for him and to watch out for "low men".

Sure enough, Brautigan turns out to have a mystical secret that the government are very interested in. The problem is that this side of the story is almost tacked on as an afterthought and jars with the nostalgic 50s coming-of-age drama (first kiss, dealing with local bullies etc) that has gone before.

Also, given the way the story is framed, since we know that Carol has died and that she never married Bobby, it’s difficult to invest in the characters emotionally, though the ending does provide some relief in that respect.

As for the acting, Hopkins can do this sort of thing in his sleep and he seems to be trying to prove it - he’s fine, but he’s coasting and it shows. Hope Davis is good as always, despite being saddled with a largely unsympathetic character, and the always-reliable David Morse is good as the adult Bobby in the framing scenes.

However, it’s the children that are the standouts, with both Yelchin and Boorem (who, if there is any justice, will be a huge star in entirely the way that Anna My Girl Chlumsky wasn’t) giving likeable, natural, entirely unpretentious performances.

In short, this is watchable, but nothing special, though it’s worth watching for the children’s performances and you can have a quick game of ‘Spot the references to Stand By Me’ if you get bored.

Film Trailer

Hearts in Atlantis (12)
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Content updated: 20/07/2018 12:04

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