A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Home Is Where the Heart Is is a family drama attempting to show grace and redemption in the face of devastating tragedy, but the film's good intentions fall short. Despite its positive messages of hopefulness and belief in one's dreams, it's a very sad movie. Cotton, its 10-year-old heroine, is battered by one catastrophe after another; as soon as she recovers from one traumatic experience, there's another on its way. Two likable leading characters fall in love and engage in romantic scenes that include kissing, embracing, undressing, and being in bed together, but there's no actual sex or nudity. Moderately offense language is heard occasionally ("kick-ass," "donkey's d--k," "smash your nuts," "bastard"). Though one early fateful event happens because of severe alcoholism, consumption of adult beverages is a key recreational activity in scene after scene. Prescription drug use also plays an important part in the story when (spoiler alert) a disturbing overdose requires the 10-year-old to perform dire life-saving measures.
What's the story?
Cotton (Bailee Madison) is only 10 when her alcoholic mother dies in HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS. Her sister Sunny (Laura Bell Bundy) comes back to the fading town of Bent Arrow, Texas, hoping to patch things up with her mom after a long estrangement, but she's too late. And Sunny certainly didn't expect to be charged with responsibility for a younger sister. It's a difficult transition, but Cotton is full of love, optimism, and hope, so Sunny makes an effort to stick it out. Cotton is very close with Butch, her eccentric neighbor, an ex-football player who spends his time with his horse, his guitar, and his watercolor postcards. Cotton counts on Butch for just about everything and determines that he and Sunny would make a wonderful set of parents for her. A little matchmaking begins. What Cotton didn't count on, however, was the awful secret her sister brought home and the actions of the mean, heavy-drinking boyfriend Sunny left behind in her hometown. Cotton's faith and positivity are challenged in the series of disastrous and life-changing events that follow.
Is it any good?
Generally good performances and the sincerity of the filmmakers can't make up for the bleak setting, the dead-end characters who populate that setting, and the unpredictable ending. Cotton is a great kid -- wise beyond her years, compassionate, funny, and wholly accepting of those she loves, despite their weaknesses and faults. In what is meant to be an inspiring tale reinforcing Cotton's optimism and joy, awful events, along with the character defects of others, conspire to knock her down again and again. By the film's end, Cotton has suffered the loss of her mother, major disappointments, a horrific scare, and a second tragedy. It's hard to imagine that even the most resilient little girl could survive the onslaught with her giving heart intact. And, the audience has suffered with her. The ending is unpredictable only in that it's hard to believe anyone could face all those traumas in such a short time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Cotton's optimistic attitude about life and her belief that "it's not stupid to dream." In what ways, if any, did this movie prove her right?
Think about the skills it takes to be a good parent. Which character (or characters) in this film was portrayed as a good parent?
How successful were the filmmakers in creating the setting for this film? Did you have a sense of what the town of Bent Arrow looked like? Where the people worked? Where Cotton went to school? Her friends? Why the town was having such hard times?
- On DVD or streaming: August 19, 2014
- Cast: Laura Bell Bundy, Bailee Madison, Conrad Goode
- Director: Rajeev Dassani
- Studios: Arc Entertainment, Watercolor Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic material, sensuality, substance abuse, some violence, and language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.