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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
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- Kids say
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. Places in the Heart's 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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can discuss the unique nature of Edna's "new" family in Places in the Heart. 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?
- In theaters: September 21, 1984
- On DVD or streaming: October 9, 2001
- Cast: Sally Field, Danny Glover, John Malkovich
- Director: Robert Benton
- Studio: TriStar Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Compassion, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- Awards/Honors: Academy Award
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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