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"We are prompted to think about those who made differences in our own childhoods, and to consider how we can make positive differences."

 

Raymond Teague is the author of Reel Spirit: A Guide to Movies That
Inspire, Explore and Empower
, from Unity House. 

He is an award-winning
journalist, an editor of spiritual publications, a popular New Thought
speaker, and a lifelong movie buff. 

His book is available by clicking the "Buy the Book" link above or by clicking here.

  Raymond Teague, 
"Reel Spirit" Movie Reviews

Hearts in Atlantis
(2001, 101 minutes, PG-13)

Ah, childhood -- that golden period of life that many adults tend to idealize as a magical, mythical time of bliss and discovery. Like our own personal Atlantis.

But Atlantis, if it existed, was probably a place of vast contradictions, like our present world and true-to-life childhoods. Atlantis probably wasn't all magic.

Childhoods usually aren't all magic, either, although many people nostalgically remember their own childhoods as being better than they were. Our childhood Atlantises could have been rising, shining, or sinking - or all of the above - but those formative years retain a powerful hold over us and affect our psyche for life.

In mature reflection, there frequently comes wonder that we made it through our Atlantian childhoods at all. In truth, childhood may have been a lonely, painful, frustrating time. But over the years our memories become wrapped up in ideal Norman Rockwell sentiments and pictures of childhood.

We wonder now how our hearts came out of it at all. Sometimes they come out scared and damaged for this earthly go-round. Some hearts are strong enough to make it through without much help. For others, there has to be considerable help - hearts that join.

A wonder of childhood is that often people do show up in our lives who give us the added strength or initiative or faith to make it. These pivotal helpers may be parents or strangers. Perhaps they are literally angels; they certainly are figurative angels.

In my own life, that angel was "Aunt Ruthie," a babysitter to whom I was taken when I was three years old who became the guiding light of my childhood and whose values have been the foundation of my adulthood. Maturation stories (both books and movies) are full of childhood's guiding lights. Movies containing such characters that immediately come to mind include To Kill a Mockingbird, My Dog Skip, Mary Poppins, Auntie Mame, and The Mighty.

In Hearts in Atlantis, eleven-year-old Bobby Garfield (Anton Yelchin), who lives with his divorced and self-absorbed mother, Liz (Hope Davis), in a Connecticut town in 1960, has two main guiding lights whose influence on his entire life never dim. These are Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins), a mysterious loner who rents the upstairs apartment in the house where Bobby and his mother live, and Carol Gerber (Mika Boorem), a neighborhood friend, soul mate, and first love with whom he shares a kiss that Ted foresees will be the kiss by which all other kisses will be judged.

Ted possesses psychic powers, including the ability to read minds and see into the future. Somehow Ted's ESP gifts transfer to Bobby during the time of their acquaintance.

While the supernatural element is interesting and at times eerie in this story based on a Stephen King book, it's not particularly relevant in terms of the importance of Ted to Bobby. Ted is a source of love and strength to Bobby, and he could have been that even without his special powers. Bobby needs someone to care about him, to pay attention to him and his interests and dreams, and to give him a "can-do" attitude and some worthwhile directions about life; Ted appears in Bobby's life as that person.

The adult Bobby recalls that Ted opened "my eyes and let the future in." In other words, Ted's caring and interest give Bobby the vision to better understand himself, his friends, his mother, his deceased father, his world, and his potential and possibilities in the world. Ted gets Bobby reading classic literature, seeing possibilities in relationships, and being more sensitive to the events around him and the feelings within himself. Clearly Ted, for all his mystery, brooding and fear (he often says "wishing can't make it so" and once ominously proclaims "I'm worried for us all"), is a sort of angel for Bobby.

Another angelic figure for Bobby - and one who looks the part - is Carol. Ted describes her as having "the heart of a lion." She also has a natural rapport with Bobby, and her innocent love and faith in him help to alleviate his loneliness and lack of self-worth.

Ted perhaps passes on to Bobby his own impressions of childhood. Ted says that childhoods can have moments of magic, but "then we grow up and our hearts break in two." Certainly the adult Bobby's impressions of his childhood are memories of both magic and heartbreak.

The adult Bobby muses, "Ted got it right. It isn't all Atlantis," referring to the concept of childhood being only magical. There are other dimensions to Atlantis, as there are other dimensions to childhood. And in the end, well, nothing is permanent in the physical realm, not Atlantis, not childhood, nothing.

Ted tells Bobby, "We're all just passing through, kiddo. Just passing through, that's all."

But Ted makes a huge difference as he passes through Bobby's life. With this story, we are prompted to think about those who made differences in our own childhoods, and to consider how we can make positive differences in the lives of children now. We can put our "hearts in Atlantis" and realize that the present-day Atlantis is a multifaceted, often difficult world desperately in need of more love.

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