Hearts in Atlantis

Year: 2001
Production Co: Castle Rock Entertainment
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Scott Hicks
Writer: William Goldman
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Anton Yelchin, Hope Davis, David Morse, Alan Tudyk

It really doesn't sound like much of a compliment to call a movie the best adaptation of a Stephen King book ever – even the best of them are usually only passable. Maybe the secret was in giving Mick Garris the month off and calling in someone who can construct a quality image like Scott Hicks.

Like a lot of King's latter work (a quality screenwriter Goldman and Hicks retain beautifully here), it's less about the plot and much more about the emotions and moods. We never know quite who Ted Brautigan (Hopkins) really is and it doesn't really matter. From the clues in the story, I thought he might be a psychic spy on the run from the government agency that trained him, but I could be completely wrong.

But to young Bobby (Yelchin, great even at the age he is here), it doesn't matter. Ted is the dad – maybe the granddad – he never had after his own father walked out. And with his bitter and distant mother (Davis) more interested in spending money on dresses than the bike he so desperately wants for his birthday, Bobby needs all the parental figures he can get.

He's not short on friends, spending the magical early 60s summer depicted in the film with pals Carol and John, but when Ted moves in upstairs Bobby takes to the enigmatic stranger straight away.

It's a bit odd that his new friend sometimes blacks out, staring into the distance and speaking gibberish, or that he asks Bobby to watch out for 'low men' on the lookout for him, but he employs Bobby to read the paper for him every day, putting the beloved bike within reach.

It's lavishly shot, cast in the dream-hued colours of King's formative years, and even though it's a bit of a jumble of themes and ideas it's bursting with heart and love.

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