Reviewed by: Douglas Downs
|Featuring||Anthony Hopkins, Anton Yelchin, Hope Davis, Mika Boorem, David Morse|
|Producer||Kerry Heysen, Michael Flynn|
It has been reported by many professional sources that fatherlessness is a national epidemic. Drs. Kalter and Rembar at the children’s Psychiatric Hospital, University of Michigan has cited these findings. The following are their results from studying children without fathers:
Many organizations, including Promise Keepers, are now trying to address this challenge. This social vacuum has created a growing need for mentors. Whether or not you are fatherless, a good mentor can have a positive impact on your life. The Summer 2001 edition of the “Leadership Journal” featured an article on how Howard Hendricks had been a constructive influence on the life of Charles Swindoll as a mentor. Mentoring has been a strong plot device in such films as the “Star Wars” Saga and my personal favorite, “Boys Town”.
“Hearts in Atlantis” is a compelling story of a fatherless boy, a single mom, and a mysterious boarder. This coming-of-age film unveils the power of a strong mentor in a child’s life. It is based on a collection of short stories by Stephen King. The collection is titled “Atlantis” and contains five stories. “Hearts in Atlantis” is a blend of two of them. Screenwriter William Goldman based most of the movie on the first story, “Low Men in Yellow Coats”. Goldman says, “I love King most when he’s not dealing with monsters but dealing with human monsters”. The press notes claim that Anthony Hopkins was reading a book by Goldman at the time he was contacted to do the film (maybe just some psychic hype).
Personally, I was looking forward to another film directed by Scott Hicks. He directed one of my favorite films of 2000, “Snow Falling On Cedars.” Most people know him for the movie “Shine.” Scott is never in a hurry with the story and always blends in some beautiful cinematography (by the late Piotr Sobocinski). I was not disappointed.
Our complex Atlantian metaphor begins with photographer Bobby Garfield (great to see ya, David Morse). He receives the news that an old friend has died. A childhood baseball glove is used to stir the memories of a promise made long ago. Bobby makes the decision to return to his hometown of Harwich, Connecticut. The audience watches the life of 11 year old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) grow up in the 60s through a long series of flashbacks. Hicks knows how to use this film device well. Mr. King (who also wrote “The Green Mile”) also likes to use this plot point.
Bobby’s retrospection includes some unpleasant views of his mother Elizabeth Garfield (Hope Davis). Liz, a self-centered mother, is struggling to make it in the world of real estate. She makes up for the lost income of her deceased husband by taking in boarders. Their lives both change when Liz takes in a peculiar lodger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins). Ted raises suspicions from mom (he shows up with in belongings in grocery sacks), but quickly earns Bobby’s trust.
Bobby has the desire to own a new bicycle and rests those hopes on his birthday. Mom delivers to Bobby an adult library card instead (ouch!). Ted quickly points out to Bobby what a wonderful gift that is. He also recommends some books for his attention.
Mr. Brautingan does provide Bobby an opportunity to earn the money instead. Our boy earns $1 a week for reading the newspaper to Ted (not a bad thing to encourage a child). He also must watch out for Low Men in yellow coats that are looking for his new friend. Bobby gets to learn, earn, and have an adventure. Brautingan reveals to the young adolescent that he has a gift. We observe that to be the power of a psychic. There is a powerful connection between these two because of this revelation. This plot point is not overdone. It is present more to create an atmosphere of tension and uneasiness. I do not believe it is compelling enough to encourage the audience to seek a New Age path.
Some close friends also enrich Bobby’s life. Carol Gerber (Mika Boorem) is the girl that Bobby will defend and also share a first kiss. Sully (Will Rothhaar) is Bobby’s best friend. There is a warm and inspirational friendship developed among this trio.
I really liked this film. I did not like our main character always smoking a cigarette (I still think the tobacco industry is chipping in on these films). I do think that the theme of mentoring is one worth exploring. It is an extremely intelligent drama. The PG-13 rating should be observed. There is a strong scene depicting an attempted rape and a child beats another with a baseball bat. I recommend that you leave the young and more impressionable at home. It would be my hope that the film would do more than entertain, but cause some to reach out and volunteer their time as a mentor. I am sure there is a fatherless child near you that could use a friend.