a critiQal film review Hearts in Atlantis (2001)

  • DVD
  • Vudu

Plot: A mysterious man (Hopkins) enlists the aid of a brilliant young boy (Yelchin) to save his life. This friendship with a mysterious stranger forever changes the way he sees the world.

782 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 54s)

When trying to decide what to watch this Saturday, Carmella ended up making the choice, as she had been wanting to see Hearts in Atlantis for awhile. Since both of us are Stephen King fans, we always want to check out his movies when we get a chance.

Unfortunately, most of the film versions (with a few noticeable exceptions) can’t compare, and we end up walking away disappointed. Would that happen again, or would the esteemed Anthony Hopkins and the late Anton Yelchin make Hearts in Atlantis worth our while?

Anthony Hopkins, as usual delivers a top-notch performance in Hearts in Atlantis. With an actor of his caliber, that’s kind of expected from him. Still, he breathes life into the character of Ted Brautigan, even while bowing to Yelchin in terms of screen time.

Anton Yelchin, who would go on to gain huge fame with his role in Star Trek (2009) before his untimely death in 2016, also does a good job as Bobby, the kid who befriends Ted. He’s the main focus of the film, and Anton Yelchin does a good job of playing his role, managing to keep the viewer interested while refraining from the usual annoying habits lots of child stars get into (ie….overacting). It’s a solid performance, and the only real hiccup lies in him trying to force tears late in the film. Not many child actors can deliver a truly believable crying sequence, and that’s the one spot in Hearts in Atlantis where Anton still needed a little work. Thankfully, by that point of the film, the viewer is already caught up in the story, so it’s less of a distraction than it would have been earlier on.

The rest of the cast does a solid job too, with David Morse popping up briefly as the older Bobby, Hope Davis as Bobby’s mom and Mika Boreem doing a standout job as the girl friend of young Bobby. Mika especially contributes a lot to the film, but Morse gets a surprising moment or two himself as well. It’s a well-rounded cast, and they seem to all mesh well together in Hearts in Atlantis.

While the more popular Stephen King movie adaptations (Pet Sematary (1989), Misery (1990), The Mist (2007), The Dark Tower (2017)) have involved some downright scary parts, Hearts in Atlantis is not a horror film. In fact, it’s a drama instead, and that sets it far apart from those other adaptations. It may be a change of pace from the “Master of Horror”, but it still has a strong plot base just like his other, more horrifying, tales.

That’s not to say Hearts in Atlantis isn’t without a bit of the odd. Like his classic-turned-film The Dead Zone (1983), there’s a bit of a supernatural element to the story. Unlike with The Mist (2007) or Pet Sematary (1989), it’s more of a backdrop to the friendship between Ted and Bobby. Ted is more like the lead character in The Dead Zone (1983) has grown into old age, and this is more about him trying to reconnect to people, after all his crazy ordeals he went through, with his friendship with this one young boy.

Hearts in Atlantis is still a far cry from the Stephen King moviegoers are used to, so many may pass over it when they discover it’s a drama not a horror flick. That’s too bad, because they would be missing a decent flick. With it’s strong cast and well-shot scenes, it’s an interesting trip back to the 50’s that most will enjoy.

Still, it’s not the fast action horror flicks fans of Stephen King films were expecting, which is why it probably didn’t get a fancy title sequence at all. As fans who have read the book know, however, just like Adam Sandler managed to pull of drama in PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE, Stephen King is still great at telling a story, no matter if it’s out of his usual element or not. And, thankfully, Hearts in Atlantis does a good job of showcasing that.

That being said, there was always one sequence that stood out in his most popular novels-turned-films before, and this film just doesn’t have that. Whether it was the axe to the legs in Misery (1990) or the knife to the ankle in Pet Sematary (1989) (to name a few), there was always one scene the viewer will remember for years to come. That’s just not the case with Hearts in Atlantis. It’s a decent coming of age story, but without that memorable sequence, it fades quickly from the mind after it comes to an end. You’ll enjoy the journey, but will be hard-pressed to remember quite why not too long after the film runs it’s course. And that’s a little disappointing.

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