A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Heart of Christmas is a 2012 movie based on a true story about a family who decides to celebrate Christmas in October when they learn that their son has terminal cancer and has only weeks to live. Parents looking for more lighthearted holiday fare -- as well as those parents looking for something less faith-based -- should seek other options, as this movie is primarily set in the children's cancer ward of St. Jude's Hospital and makes frequent references to prayer, God, and Jesus. It also is, unsurprisingly, a tearjerker of a movie but a movie that also shows bravery, courage, and resiliency in characters going through incredibly difficult circumstances.
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What's the story?
When Megan Walsh (Candace Cameron Bure) takes her children trick-or-treating on Halloween, she is surprised to see a house decorated for Christmas. When she asks the woman who lives there about it, Megan is told to follow the live journal of Julie Locke (Jeanne Neilson), who has been blogging about her day-to-day experiences with her husband, Austin, and their young son, Dax, who has been undergoing treatment for leukemia for several months. Through voice-overs, Julie shares the frustrations, difficulties, and moments of resiliency and compassion she experiences, while parents, as well as Dax and the other kids in the cancer ward, hope and pray for a miracle. When even the most promising of treatments don't work on Dax, the doctor sadly informs the Lockes that Dax has only weeks to live, and Julie realizes that Dax won't get to experience another Christmas. Undaunted, the Lockes and their community decide it's up to them to move Christmas up to October and to come together during this difficult time to cherish life's fleeting moments and to learn about what is truly important in life.
Is it any good?
The scenes involving prayer often feel forced and heavy-handed, and the acting and dialogue aren't always the best. But THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS does not try to sugarcoat the day-to-day difficulties of parents hoping for miracles in the midst of their children being treated in a cancer ward in St. Jude Children's Hospital. Resiliency, courage, and faith are continually on display in this movie, and, although it's a tearjerker, it's also the story of parents and a community coming together to make the best of an incredibly difficult situation.
Although not directly about Christmas per se, the movie does directly promote the traditional Christmas values of selfless giving, faith, and cherishing each moment shared among family members. Families looking for more lighthearted Christmas fare should definitely look elsewhere, as this movie does attempt to honestly portray life in a children's cancer ward.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film's heavy themes. How does this "Christmas movie" differ from more standard holiday fare?
In the movie, we follow a suburban mom who learns about Dax and his family's plans to celebrate Christmas in October. Why do you think the movie focuses on this family instead of Dax's family?
What would be the challenges in making a movie that is based on a true story?
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