A Stephen King tale with the merest hint of the supernatural, suspended in syrupy nostalgia for the guilelessness of a small-town American childhood of the late '50s and early '60s. Based on two stories from the Hearts in Atlantis collection "Low Men in Yellow Coats" and "Heavenly Shades of Night Are Falling" this meditation on childhood's end revolves around 11-year-old Bobby Garfield (Anton Yelchin) and Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins), the mysterious older man who moves in upstairs from Bobby and his mother, Liz (Hope Davis). Bobby has two close pals, Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) and pretty Carol Gerber (Mika Boorem) who has "first kiss" written all over her ripe lips but quickly forms a deep bond with Ted, who treats Bobby as an adult and seems to know an awful lot about life. Liz suspects ulterior motives, but that's her nature: Beneath an artificially chipper exterior, Liz is deeply embittered by the hand life has dealt her she's widowed, living from paycheck to paycheck, and beholden to supporting a perpetual reminder of the feckless husband who died uninsured and penniless. Bobby's dreams revolve around a shiny new bicycle she says they can't afford, and Ted, who complains of failing eyesight, offers a solution: He'll pay Bobby to read him the daily paper. Even Bobby thinks there must be more to the gig than reading, and Ted confesses that there is. He's being pursued by "low men," he says, and wants Bobby to keep an eye out for the apparently innocent signs of their shadowy presence, like flashy cars driven by strangers and flyers tacked to telephone poles that purport to concern lost pets. Over the course of the summer, Bobby learns things about love, his father, life's unfairness and unexpected dark corners, one of which involves Ted and the mysterious psychic gift that keeps him forever on the run. This is familiar territory for King: Childhood fears, spooky goings-on in small towns and regret for the passing of a less cynical America (while the shadow of Vietnam hangs over the book, it's absent here). Filmmakers like Rob Reiner (STAND BY ME) and Frank Darabont (THE GREEN MILE) have done well by King's melancholy tales of innocence lost, but Scott Hicks smothers the story in portentous images and the obligatory memory-inducing soundtrack. The effect is like peering at a photo through layers of shellac: evocative but remote.
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- Released: 2001
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: A Stephen King tale with the merest hint of the supernatural, suspended in syrupy nostalgia for the guilelessness of a small-town American childhood of the late '50s and early '60s. Based on two stories from the Hearts in Atlantis collection "Low Me… (more)