Directed by Scott Hicks starring Anthony Hopkins, Anton Yelchin, Hope Davis, Mika Boorem and Will Rothhaar.
Acclaimed photographer Bobby Garfield (Morse) receives a bequest from childhood friend Sully (Rothhaar) and travels back to their Connecticut hometown for his funeral. While there, Bobby inquires whether the girl he had a huge crush on, Carol Gerber (Boorem), still lives nearby. Expecting a story of marriage, children and even grandchildren, Bobby is instead told that Carol passed away a few years earlier. Reeling from the double blow of Sully and Carol, Bobby goes to his old, now derelict, family home and revisits his eleventh summer: the summer when a lodger named Ted Brautigan (Hopkins) entered his life.
Stephen King, if you'll pardon the in-joke, has enjoyed some golden years with adaptations of his non-horror writing - the likes of 'Stand by Me', 'The Shawshank Redemption' and 'The Green Mile' finding both acclaim and audiences. 'Hearts in Atlantis' too seemed set to join the honour role with 'Shine' director Scott Hicks behind the lens, Anthony Hopkins in front of it and a script by William Goldman. But the bittersweet taste of Bobby's childhood rewind seems to jump off screen and into you because this film swerves between great and mediocre all too often.
On the plus side there's Anton Yelchin, who turns in a brilliant, unforced performance as the young Bobby. It's a joy to watch his trade-offs with his bitter mother (Davis) and savour the minute-to-minute wonder in his eyes. His scenes with Hopkins (good, but a character he knows well) are a treat too: the age gap narrowing and widening from situation to situation as they develop their unforgettable friendship. And it's all filmed beautifully by the late Polish cinematographer Piotr Sobocinski ('Three Colours: Red'), who turns the front porch, neighbourhood block and downtown dive bar into places of magic.
Unfortunately, Hicks and Goldman are unsure of how to do justice to King's book and the finished film never really gels. While they do try to blend Bobby's growing up with his discovery of Ted's eerie secret, what they end up with is a decent if unfinished coming of age story and a supernatural subplot which plays like a hamfisted tack-on. At 108 minutes, the film needed another 25 to pad out the two strands, instead Bobby's reason for coming home - Sully - figures rarely in the flashbacks and the suspense is so minimal that when destiny calls for Ted your pulse remains in second gear.
You'll still come away from 'Hearts in Atlantis' wanting to read the book, but had Hicks and Goldman got it right you would've run straight from the cinema to buy it.