Directed by: Scott Hicks
Written by:William Goldman
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Anton Yelchin, Hope Davis, David Morse, Mika Boorem
Released: February 7, 2002
Grade: A-

“Sometimes when you’re young, you have moments of such happiness, you think you’re in some place magical.  Like Atlantis must have been.”

Take something old and make it new again.  What would ordinarily be an overworked coming-of-age story has been transformed with the simple adding of a new dimension.  Based on a novel by Stephen King (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) and adapted by dual Oscar winner William Goldman (All The President’s Men, Misery), Hearts In Atlantis is an absorbing story told with immaculate precision.

The past can come flooding back when you least suspect it.  Successful photographer Robert “Bobby” Garfield (Morse) is married with two children.  Out of the blue, he receives news that Sully, one of his childhood friends, has passed away.  As a child, Bobby, Sully and the final member of the trio, Carol, were inseparable.  They spent weekends and holidays together in search of adventure.

The sudden news causes Bobby to reflect back on their last summer together - back in 1960 when he was just 10-years-old.  Since his father died at the age of five, Bobby (Yelchin) has lived a tough life with his mother (Davis).

On his 11th birthday, a stranger arrives to take residence in the upstairs flat of their rented home.  Revealing little of his past, Ted Brautigan (Hopkins) develops a connection with Bobby who hungers for an adult male influence.  With his eyesight failing, Ted offers Bobby $1 a week if he’ll read the daily newspaper for him.  Further, he asks Bobby to keep his eye out for “lowmen”.  When quizzed, Ted speaks of those who hunt him - mysterious men in big cars who leave calling signs and cast long shadows.  Bobby thinks Ted’s “lowmen” to be a figment from a senile imagination but he’s soon to find there’s more to his story and more to the man himself...

One always reflects on one’s past with sentimentality and the regret of great times gone by.  Hearts In Atlantis begins with a teary nostalgic feel but becomes harder to predict and even more engrossing as it develops.  Hopkins’ character is the key and the mystery surrounding him leaves you searching intently for any minor detail that can explain him.  He also touts some wonderful lines like when he predicts that Bobby will soon kiss Carol - “You will and it will be the kiss by which all others in your life will be judged... and found wanting”.

Director Scott Hicks (Shine, Snow Falling On Cedars) adds to the mystique with great settings and delicate camerawork.  Very much like his style in Cedars, his panoramic locale and soft colouring consume us in a 1960s world.  He is currently the best director in the business.  As a small criticism, the film wanders at the midway point and the emotional imprint wavers.  The heartfelt conclusion does restore credibility though and its open-endedness is valuable in maintaining the mystery.

It’s nice to see quality stories and when you mix Stephen King and Scott Hicks you’re know going to get a damn good one.  A beautiful story I could watch repeatedly and still find new nuances to appreciate.