A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Heaven Sent, the heartwarming story of a Christmas miracle, was originally a Lifetime Channel holiday film. Taylor, a plucky little girl, arrives unannounced at the home of a married couple who are in the midst of separating (divorce papers are signed and catastrophically destroyed more than once). Though Taylor's origins are a mystery, her mission is not -- she wants them back together, and, as she becomes a significant presence in their lives, she simply won't give up. A few mildly spooky scenes announce that something unexpected, and perhaps not of this world, may be happening. Some slapstick action -- falls from a tall ladder, a woman throws an object that hits her husband in the crotch -- but no one is hurt. The film opens with two people sending prayers to God. The story is then gently based on spiritual concepts (angels, heaven), with a few religious messages, as well (i.e., "God's plans are revealed in his own good time -- not ours"). Because the central tale involves divorce and occasional references to a marriage's declining sexual relationship, it's best for older kids and up.
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What's the story?
Billy Taylor (Christian Kane) and his wife Maire (Marley Shelton) are on the brink of divorce in HEAVEN SENT. It's just before Christmas and each of them has a prayer. For Billy, it's a prayer to hold onto his marriage. For Maire, it's a prayer that Billy will let go and move on. Their prayers are answered, but not in the way one might expect. To their utter amazement, a curly-haired little girl, "Taylor" (Mallory James Mahoney) literally arrives on their doorstep. Suitcase in tow, it appears a delivery service dropped her off. But when Billy and Maire make a call to the appropriate authorities to assist, another surprise awaits them. This is no ordinary "lost child." In fact, the two police officers can't even see Taylor, a fact that is explained only when Billy and Maire are shocked to realize that Taylor's reflection is not visible in the living room mirror. Who is this strange apparition? Will the fact that she soon reveals her feathery wings explain her presence? And who is the mysterious man with a cane who sometimes shows up on the dark wintry streets of the family's Boulder, CO community? It isn't long before the young couple, still struggling with their relationship, realize that Taylor is determined to keep them married. Things get complicated by the fact that Billy and Maire share a business; their mom-and-pop store is being scouted by a major corporate venture with a handsome representative who has his eye on Maire. Taylor's got a big job on her little hands. She's more than up to the challenge, however, and Billy and Maire discover they have a lot to learn about each other and about this most unusual answer to their prayers.
Is it any good?
There's a fine line between touching and sappy, and, most of the time, this movie stays on the right side of that line with a super-adorable young actress and two appealing performances by the leads. Occasionally, however, there's a lapse and it's all just too precious. The concept of the film -- magical things happen at Christmastime -- is a family staple, and this movie is a nice addition to the genre. Despite the film's low budget, director Michael Landon, Jr. has done a good job of making the look of Heaven Sent consistent with the spirit of the story -- lots of lights, sparkle, and a gentle ambience throughout. The central issue -- divorce -- along with a few sexual references, makes this movie best for older kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how appealing Christmas movies are when they involve miracles like Heaven Sent. In what ways are such movies similar to fairy tales? What is your favorite magical holiday film? Why?
What is meant by the term "willing suspension of disbelief?" While the expression often refers to events in movies, what other arts sometimes require a suspension of disbelief?
Do you have to believe in angels to enjoy a story like Heaven Sent? Why or why not?
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