With a title as curious as its story, Anthony Hopkins stars as Ted Brautigan, a man with a mysterious past who wanders into the life and home of a young suburban kid named Bobby Garfield, played by Anton Yelchin. Ted takes residence in an upstairs loft in the boy’s house, and it’s not long before a friendship is formed between the two. This coming-of age tale is skillfully directed by Scott Hicks ("Shine") who shows adeptness for capturing strong moments between Hopkins and Yelchin as well as the tension that exists between the mother (played by Hope Davis) and the son. There are many interesting character-to-character interactions here, and that’s in large part why this movie is successful. A great Father/Son relationship is formed between Ted and Bobby, a budding puppy love story between Bobby and his neighborhood girlfriend (Mika Boorem) develops, and the mother and son also address major issues such as the background of Bobby’s father, his mother’s devotion, both financially and emotionally to him, and even the nature of Bobby and Ted’s close friendship.
The movie takes an interesting turn as Ted reveals to Bobby that dark, dangerous, and faceless men ("The Low Men") are coming for him, and that he needs him to watch for signs of their presence in the neighborhood. It soon becomes clear that with Ted’s remarkable intelligence, he also possesses an extraordinary gift – the gift of psychic power. There are some fascinating scenes where his psychic power is used in remarkable but realistic ways; to win at gambling, to intimidate a bully, and even to sense a tragic crime perpetrated on Bobby’s mother. The movie’s focus clearly lies on the young boy, and his need for love and family. As the picture begins to draw to an end, it becomes less a supernatural story, and more of a story of a young boy learning and experiencing life. This production relies to a large extent on the young lead that headlines the story, and he does not disappoint. Anton Yelchin is a child actor, but utterly believable and suitable for the role. Another standout is Mika Boorem, who also is surprisingly gifted as his childhood friend. Anthony Hopkins anchors the film with great dignity and wisdom, and adds his trademark intellectualism and detachment to Ted. The movie throws in government agents, bullies, gambling, a sexual crime, and the paranormal, but you won’t need any psychic friends to figure it out.
The video is presented in a pristine widescreen format, with no visible flaws, edge-enhancement, or artifacts. Contrast, colors, and detail are all theater-quality. Cinematography by Piotr Sobocinski is beautiful and well rendered. Sadly, and fittingly, the end credits pay respect to his death, and is work is well represented on this disk, with nostalgic and memorable locations photographed well throughout. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is also produced well, with dialogue, sound effects, and soundtrack presented in the proper speaker range and volume. The film is mostly dialogue-driven, so subwoofers need not apply unless a car or train appears in the picture.
Special features include a still gallery, the trailer, subtitles, cast/crew info, and a truly excellent Q&A session between the director, Scott Hicks, and Anthony Hopkins. I found Hopkins’ insight on his acting career and method as well as his assessment of the child actors to be fascinating. Hopkins leaves a gem for aspiring actors in this section, insinuating that a performer can make acting as hard as they want, or as simple as they want, and that he chooses the simple, less analytical route. Interesting stories on his childhood and family life also abound in this featurette, which as a Hopkins fan I found priceless. The commentary track is also well represented here, with Scott Hicks contributing insightful (if not dry), and sometimes humorous comments on his choices during the production. One notable highlight is his decision not to show the beating of Mika Boorem’s character, but to explain that the falling of her book and the "disturbance of nature" of the birds flying off in a panic as enough – Good stuff.
If you’re a fan of "Stand By Me", or "Green Mile", pick this up. If you expect a supernatural thriller, or a movie that harkens back to Stephen King’s early works, you might be disappointed. This is an introspective, slower-paced, dramatic look at childhood and maturation masked in the previews as a thriller. As a fan of Anthony Hopkins, I found this a more than worthy addition to my library; Casual movie enthusiasts may want to rent. This movie does deserve a viewing for anyone interested in reflecting on his or her youth, or fans of good drama. An interesting, subtle production that should hold your interest and cause you to reflect on your own childhood. Highly recommended.