Heaven's Door

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Heaven's Door Movie Poster Image
Faith-based drama has supernatural powers, heavy themes.
  • PG
  • 2013
  • 98 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Loved ones who die could help you from the afterlife.

 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Riley defies her non-believing mother by believing in God, heaven, and supernatural powers. Her grandmother laments that Riley's mother doesn't believe. A greedy and insensitive newspaper owner tries to exploit Riley's powers to sell papers. Riley's dad is kind and understanding.

Violence

Riley falls out of a tree. She faints when people wanting cures surround her. A man reaches to help her and for undisclosed reasons she cures only him of the entire group. Offscreen, a cat is hit by a car. Riley heals the cat but it's later reported the cat dies.
 

Sex

Two married people kiss.

Language

"Knothead," "carrothead," "dipstick," and "nimrod."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A girl with cancer is said to be on chemo. A boy with asthma is supposed to take medicine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the faith-based Heaven's Door deals with the death of a 12-year-old girl's grandfather and her belief that he's contacting her from heaven and bestowing healing powers on her. Other emotional challenges include the death of a pet dog, the girl's parents' imminent divorce, and the illnesses of those who flock to the girl to be "cured." The girl herself later seems to be pronounced dead but then returns to life in an unexplained way, with perhaps the intervention of her dead grandfather. None of this is fully explained. 

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What's the story?

HEAVEN'S DOOR begins with a touching scene between Riley (Kirstin Dorn), 12, and her grandpa Nate (Edward Herrmann), who then drops dead in their yard of a heart attack. Soon after, Riley discovers that a giant fir tree in the yard is the source of an "opening" to heaven when her soccer ball gets stuck in the tree and she climbs up and falls off without any obvious injury. This seems to infuse her with the power to heal the sick. She puts pep in the step of their aged dog. She cures her 4-year-old brother of asthma. She helps kids with sick pets. Her mom, Julie (Charisma Carpenter), who is not a believer and works for a local paper, learns of Riley's power and forbids her from helping anyone else, although she doesn't give any reason. As Riley cures more people she recognizes that there are "consequences" for her good deeds. It seems that she takes on the illnesses she cures, but, illogically, not all of the illnesses. Riley's health declines but she seems to make a miraculous return from the dead.     
 

Is it any good?

All the many ways in which this movie is internally inconsistent, nonsensical, and downright messy are too numerous to list. That said, Heaven's Door is designed to appeal to Christians who believe in angels, divine intervention, communications between the living and the dead, and in the ability of certain chosen individuals to use spiritual powers that derive from the dead to heal the sick. For those reasons, believers may find the movie's many story and editing problems acceptable drawbacks. For example, Riley, who is starting to take on the illnesses of those she's cured, learns that the healed are getting sick again. On the other hand, Ben, the hospital janitor, whose eyesight was restored, is NOT relapsing. So why isn't Riley losing her vision? Who exactly is giving her the power to heal people? God? Jesus? Angels? Is it her dead grandpa Nate? Why does Nate's widow ask Nate to help the ailing Riley? What can he do? Why doesn't she ask God?

Most confusing is the sequence in which Riley walks from her hospital room to the room of a girl with cancer. Riley cures the kid, then seems to drop to the floor. With no explanation, a doctor walks down the hall in scrubs, seemingly from surgery. When was the surgery? What was it for?  It feels as if the director didn't shoot enough coverage to fix last-minute story changes, then prayed that divine intervention would fix it all. Equally maddening, we are told that heaven is not a far-off place with puffy clouds, but the camera cuts to puffy clouds at least three times throughout the movie. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether they believe in life after death. Do you think, like Heaven's Door suggests, dead people contact the living after they die? Do you think they gain special supernatural powers after they die that can be used to influence the living?

  • Why is it comforting to think that people we've loved and lost are still around us?

  • How would you describe this movie's point of view about faith? Who do you think the intended audience is?

Movie details

For kids who love faith-based tales

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