Paper Heart

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Paper Heart Movie Poster Image
Quirky semi-documentary about love is cute for teens.
  • PG-13
  • 2009
  • 88 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

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 & Representations

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.


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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
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 t... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byGiven2412 March 26, 2011
really sweet!
Teen, 15 years old Written byMiranda B. 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 varie... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comedies

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