Movie Review by Reece De Ville
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Anton Yelchin, Hope Davis, Mika Boorem, David Morse
Director: Scott Hicks
There have only been a few films in recent years that have put a lump in my throat and gave me that trademark ‘warm feelin’ all over. The films in question were THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and THE GREEN MILE, both stories from the pen of horror scribe Steven King. His love of period, particularly the 1960’s, is astute and his tales of ordinary people experiencing extraordinary courage and bravery is something we can all relate to.
Both films have found their life on video and now DVD, and it’s arguable that HEARTS IN ATLANTIS will go that very same way. Cinema audiences demand the immediate, and films such as the above provide information for afterthought and contemplation. The home cinema boom in recent years allows these films to be re-valued and appreciated in a more appropriate environment. That’s not to say however that HEARTS IN ATLANTIS won’t buck the trend.
William Goldman’s (BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN) script combines King’s short stories ‘Low Men In Yellow Coats’ and ‘Heavenly Shades of Night Are Falling’ into a tale that is both heartbreaking and heart warming. The story follows a similar line to STAND BY ME (which it will no doubt be compared to again and again etc) in that we begin with Bobby Garfield (a brilliant understated performance by David Morse) returning to the town of his childhood to attend the funeral of a childhood friend, setting up the film’s narration by Garfield. This visit is the catalyst for his memories of the summer Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) came to visit 30 years ago. Newcomer Anton Yelchin portrays the 11 year-old Garfield as he struggles to come to terms with living with his seemingly self-obsessed mover Liz (Hope Davis) and the haunting memories of his deceased father.
Hopkins brings an air of restrained dignity to the part of Ted Brautigan as he guides the young Garfield into his first kiss, with Carol Gerber (Mika Boorem), and through what appears to be a series of unconnected incidents, into finding out who his father really was. A further edge is added to the story by the appearance of the ‘Low Men’ who are after Brautigan for his psychic abilities and may or may not be government agents using people like Brautigan to ‘flush’ out suspected communists. Filled with the same mixture of pathos, humour and realism that made STAND BY ME such a wonderful ‘coming of age’ drama, to elaborate further on the plot would be to spoil the intrigue. Sorry!
Set against a backdrop of 1960’s music and political shenanigans, Hick’s direction is supreme, teasing out superlative performances from his strong cast. Hopkins and Morse are solid with Morse’s appearance towards the end of the film tugging at the heartstrings, whilst Yelchin and Boorem are a treat to watch. Yelchin is both natural and un-robot like as is the trait with so many ‘child’ actors whilst Boorem complements him perfectly with a performance well beyond her years. Hope Davis also brings a level of humanity to her character and even made me feel very sympathetic towards her. A surprise considering her character is perhaps one of the most unsympathetic on screen! The late Piotr Sobocinski’s cinematography is magnificent and worthy of an Oscar nomination for his way of turning the mundane into magical.
HEARTS IN ATLANTIS is a film to be savoured. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea and indeed if I had one complaint it was that too many loose ends are left unanswered due to it’s short running time (approx 90 minutes), but it’s beauty of storytelling should convert even the most cynical film goer after bloated fare such as PEARL HARBOR. There’s a real danger that this film will get lost amongst more hyped ‘spectaculars’, but you’ll thank yourself for seeing it.
Well, why are you still reading this? Go and see it now!