Sometimes you catch a film at 3.00pm or 3.00am on TV. These days it’s more likely to be a streaming service. It’s a film you’ve never seen before. You watch it expecting nothing and you come way from it pleasantly surprised.
Hearts in Atlantis (2001) is one of those films. It’s quite a serious story about adolescence and memory. While some memories fade, others memories persist and linger. The past lives on but it’s a place that you can never go back to.
The film is about change, loss — the end of ‘Bobby’ / Robert Garfield’s childhood and his innocence. The theme of memory and looking back with hindsight is mirrored with Ted Brautigan’s psychic abilities (his second sight adding a little magic to the story). It is also about a young adult without a father figure and the arrival of a mysterious outsider (Ted Brautigan) who seems a little creepy at first but turns into a mentor figure.
Anthony Hopkins is great in his role as the doomed Ted Brautigan and the story is satisfying. It’s a very slick screenplay encapsulating nostalgia and the ravages of time (loosely based on a short story by Steven King). It does get a little schmaltzy from time to time with that childhood summer, soda pop Americana vibe (was that a particularly late 90s / turn of the century thing, maybe?). Tonally it’s The Wonder Years or Stand By Me with a smidgen of the X-Files.
As you might expect there’s a fair amount of the adult ‘Bobby’ / Robert Garfield making sense of his experience through a voiceover narration. This is obligatory for these stories, as is the personification of time being expressed by revisiting a childhood home that’s since fallen into disrepair and is now abandoned. Hearts in Atlantis is well acted and attractively shot. It was an enjoyable 101 minutes, even if there were no surprises.