The Other Side of Heaven



OK movie of young Mormon missionary.
  • Review Date: November 7, 2006
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2002
  • Running Time: 113 minutes

What parents need to know


Several scenes of peril, characters die.


Mild references to prostitution, attempted seduction, strong argument for chastity.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters abuse alcohol and smoke.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie has some bloody injuries, scary storms, and character deaths. Native girls go off with sailors who offer passage in exchange for sex. Characters abuse alcohol. John makes it clear that in his view sex is only for those bound by marriage in a covenant of eternal love. Despite the superficiality, it is always good to see a movie character who has a strong spiritual and moral commitment that informs his choices.

What's the story?

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 is 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 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 film's superficiality, it's always good to see a movie character who has a strong spiritual and moral commitment that informs his choices.

Families can talk 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. They may also want to talk about the way John and his family draw on their faith in making their decisions.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 12, 2002
DVD release date:April 1, 2003
Cast:Anne Hathaway, Christopher Gorham, Joe Folan
Director:Mitch Davis
Studio:Walt Disney Pictures
Run time:113 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:peril, death, and sexual references

This review of The Other Side of Heaven was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

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.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 15 years old Written byrascal December 5, 2009

Perfect for those seeking a spiritual uplift

it is a very inspiring movie.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written byivelisse April 9, 2008

My family really love this movie!

My kids liked the movie very much. I was concerned that some parts might be scary for them, but they were not scare at all. Instead, they were more concentrated in the important messages of love, respect, and courage portraited by the characters in this movie. One character was help to overcome alcoholism through the love and care that the main characters showed for him. We like it so much that we have seen it several times already. I hope your family will enjoy it as much as my family did.
Adult Written byCSM Screen Name... April 9, 2008

Didn't want the movie to end!

This is a great story about how one set of missionaries can make a huge impact on an entire group of people, and in the process have a different outlook on life. Expect to laugh and cry, sometimes at the same moment.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass