Places in the Heart



Inspiring, intense tale about hardship, bigotry, redemption.
  • Review Date: April 1, 2014
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1984
  • Running Time: 111 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Affirms that families comes in all sizes, shapes, and colors; people are bound together for a "common good" with love and mutual respect. Values promoted are: teamwork, forgiveness, compassion, and ethical behavior.

Positive role models

Edna, the heroine, is observed on a life-changing journey: from sheltered, loving wife and mother to a woman of great independence, strength, and resourcefulness, one who never abandons her loving nature and sense of humanity. In addition, several featured players (including a blind man) have transformative experiences. Racial prejudice is an integral story element; the central African-American character is multi-faceted and positively impacts the lives of many people. 


A sheriff is shot and killed by a young African-American man; his body is seen in various scenes. The young man is shown hanging in revenge. Ku Klux Klansmen beat up a well-liked character. In a tense, suspenseful sequence a violent storm and tornado wreak havoc in a town; children and adults are threatened; a dead body is observed from a distance having been crushed during the disturbance. 


Several scenes reveal that a couple is having an extramarital affair. Their romance is prominent subsidiary story; they're seen after sex, embracing, caressing. . A woman is shown in a bath; no nudity.


Occasional swearing: "hell," "son of a bitch." Multiple racial slurs, including the "N" word used repeatedly.



Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Wine is consumed in a religious service. Set in the 1930s, smoking is seen throughout; a young boy smokes, but is caught and punished.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Places in the Heart is set in Texas during The Great Depression and shows a community dealing with poverty, lack of hope, and racial prejudice. Important messages about family, compassion, and respect for individual differences are effectively delivered. Several dramatic sequences are suspenseful and scary (a shooting, a beating, a turbulent storm); other scenes dealing with the bigotry of the time are highly charged and unsettling (the "N" word is used). Though outcomes are inspirational and prove that human goodness and ingenuity are rewarded, there are sad moments (spoiler alert: a father is killed; a young African-American is lynched; a violent storm threatens a town). A sub-plot concerns an adulterous relationship (some kissing, embracing, no nudity). Characters smoke; wine is used in a religious ceremony. 

What's the story?

When her husband is unexpectedly killed, Edna Spalding (Sally Field ) must deal with her profound grief, sudden full responsibility for her two children, and the realities of poverty in the midst of the Depression of the mid-1930s. PLACES IN THE HEART takes the previously sheltered Edna on an astonishing journey toward independence, maturity, and self-reliance. Her reconstituted Texas family, which includes an itinerant African-American thief and an embittered blind victim of The Great War, join in her struggle to save her home and her ideals from greedy business interests, natural disaster, and prejudice.

Is it any good?


Nominated for seven Academy Awards (with wins for Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay), this film has a heartfelt story and insightful messages about compassion, integrity, and perseverance. In addition to Sally Fields' strong, nuanced performance as Edna, writer/director Robert Benton has created a tapestry of richly-defined characters in the community around her. Standout performances are delivered by Lindsay Crouse, Danny Glover, John Malkovich, Ed Harris, and Amy Madigan. Seeing this sincere recreation of Mr. Benton's hometown and its people during the challenging Depression era will likely be an enlightening and moving experience for older kids, teens, and their families.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can discuss the unique nature of Edna's "new" family. How does that reflect the variety of family structures in the United States today?


  • Use Edna's experience with the bank and Moze's encounters with the cotton merchant as examples of prejudices against both women and racial minorities. How much has changed since the events in this movie? Do you think we have further to go? .Why?

  • Did the film's ending have a major impact on you? What do you think the filmmaker's intention was? What did they want you to take away from this movie?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 21, 1984
DVD release date:October 9, 2001
Cast:Sally Field, Danny Glover, John Malkovich
Director:Robert Benton
Studio:TriStar Pictures
Topics:Misfits and underdogs
Run time:111 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
Awards/Honors:Academy Award

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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