Paper Heart Movie Poster Image

Paper Heart



Quirky semi-documentary about love is cute for teens.
  • Review Date: August 7, 2009
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 88 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Although Charlyne is resistant to the idea of love, the film suggests that not only is it very real, but it (at least in the form of a long-term, happy marriage) is something that many committed couples have accomplished.

Positive role models

Many of the real-life couples featured in the movie discuss what it takes to have a long-lasting marriage and relationship. Charlyne realizes that to further her relationship with Michael, she must sacrifice aspects of the movie's documentary nature.

Not applicable

Charlyne and Michael flirt and hold hands; a couple of brief kisses. There are several interviews of couples discussing their romantic relationships and marriages. One same-sex couple mentions having sex in a car on their second date (non-graphic discussion).


Language is limited to a few utterances of "s--t" and "bastard."


Just Apple products: Mac computer and iPod. Young girls talk about how they love singer Chris Brown.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

At a party, young adults (they all look over 21) drink and smoke cigarettes. Charlyne and her director also smoke cigarettes on a couple of occasions.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this semi-scripted, semi-documentary-style movie co-starring Juno's Michael Cera focuses on a young actress' search for the meaning of love. There's not much sexuality, since the focus is on romantic love, but there are a couple of scenes in which couples hold hands and kiss (sweetly, not passionately). For a PG-13 movie, there's not much language other than the occasional "s--t" and "bastard." The movie's message is ultimately positive: Love is out there, but it takes personal and emotional risk/commitment to find and feel it.

What's the story?

Young comedic actress/performance artist Charlyne Yi (best known as Martin Starr's zoned-out girlfriend in Knocked Up) sets out on the ultimate adventure: to find out whether love truly exists. Skeptical of the concept of love, Yi; her director, Nick (played by actor Jake M. Johnson); and a tiny film crew embark on a cross-country journey to interview professors, novelists, divorcees, and couples -- all to determine the mechanics of love. Along the way, she gets to know the smitten, amazingly earnest Michael Cera (Juno, Superbad) and starts longing to be around him. But is it love?

Is it any good?


Yi is a refreshingly tomboyish Everygirl. Her incredibly expressive face lets you know exactly how she feels with every bulge of her eyes, downturn of her mouth, or lift of her eyebrows. Her skepticism about love makes the scenes with the geeky-but-adorable Cera sweetly predictable (the girl who doesn't believe in love discovers it on film for the very first time!), until she admits in front of him and her crew that she basically doesn't love him. Later, when she realizes how much she misses him, she begins to second-guess herself, which is, for a movie, pretty predictable.

The best part of PAPER HEART (a "hybrid" of documentary footage and scripted filmmaking) isn't the When Harry Met Sally-style interviews with couples, but enchanting little cardboard puppet shows used to depict the various love stories told in those interviews. Each interlude is magical, despite (or perhaps because of) the crude materials that look straight out of a preschool craft closet: aluminum foil, yarn, cardboard, and toy vehicles. Ingeniously crafted, the mixed-media, mixed-form film is charming and uplifting -- a welcome change from all the crass cynicism that's usually on display at the multiplex.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about adolescent and adult relationships, especially in light of the one couple who got married at 17. Do you think there are any rules about what makes a successful relationship?

  • Do you think this movie fits into the documentary genre, or should it be considered a comedy? Is it disappointing to know that the "director" in the movie was played by an actor?

  • What did you think of the puppet segments? How did they work (or not) with the rest of the movie?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 7, 2009
DVD release date:December 1, 2009
Cast:Charlyne Yi, Jake M. Johnson, Michael Cera
Director:Nicholas Jasenovec
Studio:Overture Films
Run time:88 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:some language

This review of Paper Heart was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 15 years old Written byOGORMAN February 3, 2011

Documentary about love in all different forms makes a good watch.

Charlyne doesn't believe in love, but she wants to see what others think of it. She sets out with her friend on a journey all around and interviews a variety of people; including old, young (little kids on a playground, which is where the Chris Brown references come in), gay, straight, etc. Then she is introduced to Michael Cera. Ever his funny and somewhat awkward self, he and Charlyne form a relationship that is also somewhat awkward. I enjoyed this... I would say more documentary than movie. I don't know if it was enough that I would wanna go out and buy it, but still eye-opening and inspirational.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Great messages
Parent of a 10 year old Written byvalues December 23, 2010
I clicked role models aren't good for the scene in the bar with the biker when he was talking about treating his wife like ****. I think he had a little too much too drink. I wouldn't say this is appropriate for all 10 year olds. My daughter can't handle scary that the average 10 year old can handle but can handle that not everything you see in the world do you do yourself. Very cute story line. The message of what love is and the importance of forgiveness shines through.
What other families should know
Great messages
Teen, 14 years old Written byGiven2412 March 26, 2011
really sweet!
What other families should know
Great messages


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?