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 Other Side of Heaven is a 2001 drama based on the memoir of a young Mormon man who works as a missionary in the Tongan islands in the 1950s. It's a movie that presents faith-based themes and values, and Mormon values in particular. The lead character preaches charity, abstinence, and sobriety, and is also shown living these values through his actions and decisions. There are scenes with some bloody injuries, scary storms, and character deaths. Native girls go off with sailors who offer passage in exchange for sex. One of the young women, attracted to the main character, removes her clothes in front of him and asks that they go off somewhere to "make love." John makes it clear that in his view sex is only for those bound by marriage in a covenant of eternal love. Characters abuse alcohol; talk of how the father of one of the characters was an abusive alcoholic before his conversion.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In THE OTHER SIDE OF HEAVEN, following his graduation from Brigham Young University, young Mormon missionary John Groberg (Christopher Gorham) embarks on an 83-day journey to the tiny Tongan island where he will be stationed for two years. His only link with home is the monthly mail delivery, and the letters he writes to the girl he hopes to marry (Anne Hathaway) provide the narration. John faces challenges from the culture and setting. The local minister (a Tongan Christian) tells the natives not to deal with him, and even sends some to rough him up. A typhoon wipes out all of the island's crops and homes. He's caught in a storm at sea. Those darn natives keep resisting the rules he has come to teach them. And the church criticizes him for not doing his paperwork. Through all of this John is unfailingly wise, patient, and obedient. He cures an injured child with prayer and pre-CPR first aid. He resists a native beauty who offers him sex without commitment. He even proves himself to the rival minister, who not only apologizes, but also sacrifices himself so that John can survive.
Is it any good?
This gently retro story of a young Morman missionary in the Pacific Islands of Tonga loses some wholesomeness points due to some smug insularity. Through all of his experiences, John never questions his role, so he never really learns or grows. But despite The Other Side of Heaven's superficiality, it's always good to see a movie character who has a strong spiritual and moral commitment that informs his choices. Faith-based families will find much to enjoy and discuss.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how we find a balance between respect for the cultures and religions of others and knowing our own moral and spiritual centers.
How do John and his family draw on their faith in making their decisions in The Other Side of Heaven? Is your family religious?
This movie was based on a memoir. What would be the challenges in adapting a memoir into a movie, especially one with religious and spiritual themes?
- In theaters: April 12, 2002
- On DVD or streaming: April 1, 2003
- Cast: Anne Hathaway, Christopher Gorham, Joe Folan
- Director: Mitch Davis
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: History
- Run time: 113 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: peril, death, and sexual references
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love faith-based tales
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch