In The Darkrnby George McCartneyrnSomething BothrnBrighter and DarkerrnI went to see director Scott Hicks’ Heartsrnin Atlantis not having read the StephenrnKing novel on which it is based. The UttlernI knew of King’s other fiction was notrnencouraging. I expected another excursionrninto bump-in-the-night territory—rnnot my favorite place to visit. To my surprise,rnthe film turned out to be a movingrnportrayal of a happenstance but deeplyrnfelt father-son relationship. This, in largernpart, is due to Anthony Hopkins’ transcendentrnportrayal of the mysterious TedrnBrautigan, a 66-year-old man who befriendsrnBobby Garfield (Anton Yelchin),rna fatherless boy of 11.rnAlthough Bobby is the protagonist, it isrntiie knighted Welshman who raises thernfilm far above screenwriter WilliamrnGoldman’s middling adaptation. (Irnspeak with authority. The film made merncurious enough to read King’s novel afterward.rnWliile it isn’t Tolstoy, it is an unexpectedlyrnworthy meditation on ourrnmortal condition.) Whether deliberatelyrnor not, the film acknowledges its debt tornHopkins by having Bobby quote him.rnThis happens just after the lad gives hisrnfriend Carol (Mika Boorem) an impulsivernpeck on the lips. Having made thernbriefest essay at prepubeseent romance,rnBobby assesses the results with wordsrnHopkins’ character spoke to him earlierrnconcerning one’s first oscular moment:rn”It will be the kiss by which all others inrnour lives will be judged and found wanfiug.”rnPuzzled by such eloquence, Carolrnmerely wrinkles her nose, and Bobbyrnsighs, “It sounded better when Ted saidrnit.” No one will disagree. When Hopkinsrndelivered this observation, it seemedrnexquisitely luminous. With his middledistancerngaze and effortless basso profundo,rnhe gave King’s sentence all the forcernof an incontestable first principle in thernscience of love —momentarily, at least.rnOnly afterward, free of Hopkins’ spell, dornwe regain our wits and recognize this forrnthe grade-B bologna it is. Rememberrnthat first bimibling attempt to put a liplockrnon a member of the opposite sex? Ifrnyou’re like me, you’ll cringe at the notionrnof using the experience as the yardsfick torna.ssess all subsequent smooching. DoingrnHearts in AtlantisrnProduced by Castle RockrnEntertainmentrnDirected by Scott HicksrnScreenplay by William Goldmanrnfrom Stephen King’s novelrnReleased by Warner Brothersrnso would be as reasonable as judging yourrndriving competence by how well yournhandled a stick-shift in your first frazzledrnhour at the wheel. Only an actor of Hoj>rnkins’ consimimate wizardry could makernus believe otherwise, and that is why he isrnperfect for this film.rnFor once, the uncanny Hopkins isrntypecast. He plays an aging man with thernpreternatural ability to read minds andrnthen bestow this gift on those he touches.rnThis conceit perfectly mirrors what Hopkinsrnhas been doing for over 40 years, enteringrninto his roles so thoroughly that wernare convinced we know his charactersrnpersonally. At one point, Ted tells Bobby,rn”I pass on a window into other peoples’rnminds.” I couldn’t help thinking,rnyes, you certainly do. There’s CaptainrnBligh, Hannibal Lector, C.S. Lewis, andrnTifris Andronieus. He even made us believernhe was Richard Nixon with an Englishrnaccent. Every role he plays is a windowrninto another soul. How he does it isrnas mysterious as Ted’s psychic eavesdropping.rnThe story Hopkins is serving here hasrnbeen shaped from “Low Men in YellowrnCoats,” the first of the five loosely connectedrnnarratives that make up King’srnnovel, each meant to be a meditation onrnAmerica’s “loss of innocence” during thern1960’s. (Why do people suppose we hadrnmore innocence to lose in that decadernthan any other? What about the 1860’srnor the 19?0’s? Or, for that matter, thisrnvery moment?) It’s a tale of a boy forcedrnby circumstances to face adult issues prematurelyrnand finding help in the personrnof the mysteriously gifted Ted, a sfrangerrnwho enters his life apparently by chancernand seemingly from nowhere.rnWe meet Bobby in 1960 on his 11thrnbirthday. For a present, his mother givesrnhim an adult library card instead of thernbicycle he had hoped for. He is painfullyrnaware that her choice has been dictatedrnby her stinginess. The card is free.rnBobby’s father had died when he wasrnthree, leaving his mother extravagantlyrnaggrieved by life’s unfairness. She hasrndeveloped into a shrewish cheapskate.rn’Tour father left me with nothing but arnstack of unpaid bills and a lapsed insurancernpolicy,” she automatically snapsrnwhenever she spies a request for moneyrnlooming on the horizon.rnBobby finds this puzzling. His motherrndoesn’t hesitate to buy fancy clothing forrnherself. And there are other things herndoesn’t understand. She frequently staysrnlate at her secretarial job in a local real-estaternoffice on the pretext of having workrnto do for her loutish boss. WTien she isrnhome in the evening, she receives calls atrnodd hours that alternately delight and depressrnher. Although he feigns indifference,rnBobby is keenly aware that all is notrnas it seems.rnThe adult library card signals Bobby’srnneed to gain some access to grown-uprnmysteries. Within minutes of receivingrnit, he meets Ted, who will become hisrnmentor, directing him to the books mostrnlikely to open his eyes to realities just beyondrnhis ken. In effect, Ted becomesrnBobby’s adult library card incarnate, hisrnliving passport from innocence to experience.rnHe will prepare Bobby to deal witlirna world in which good does not necessarilyrnprevail but, nevertheless, commandsrnthe loyalty of those who aspire to nobility.rnThe novel makes much more of Ted’s literaryrnmentoring than does the film, especiallyrnhis discussion of William Golding’srnLord of the Flies, which King uses to infroducernhis cenfral theme; the unavoidablernstiuggle between civilized decencyrnand savage bullying that underlies sornmuch of adult experience. Althoughrnscanting the literary chat, the film alsornputs this issue front and center. Bobbyrnand Carol are tormented—viciously, atrntimes—by a group of older boys againstrnwhom they are virtually defenseless. Parallelrnto this, Bobby’s motlier—increasinglyrndesperate for economic security—dangerouslyrncompromises herself with herrncrude boss on a business tiip she shouldrnnot have agreed to take.rnTed understands these predicaments,rnand not just because he can read minds.rnHe has his own bullies at his back—th’rnlow men who are pursuing him, presrrnDECEMfrnrnrn