When Calls the Heart

Movie review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
When Calls the Heart Movie Poster Image
Book adaptation with feel-good, faith-based themes.
  • NR
  • 2013
  • 89 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 4 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

The story exposes viewers to the realities of life in the western Canadian frontier as it's seen through the eyes of formerly privileged immigrants. It is rich in illustrations of friendship, family relationships, community strength, and kindness to others.

Positive Messages

The story centers on two 19th-century women who heed callings as teachers in rigorous frontier life and discover inner strength they didn't know they had. Faith is a recurring theme: faith in God's infallible plan, faith in one's niche within that plan, and faith in the value of other people, regardless of their status or past wrongs. Forgiveness, respect, and compassion are revisited time and again. The story touches on the harshness of life in that time and place, including mention of a mine explosion that killed most of the men in a town and a reference to the death of a young character.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Both Elizabeth and Aunt Elizabeth embrace change that challenges the roles they were expected to take on as high-society women. Instead of being blindly obedient, they exercise free will and rely on their faith in God to see them through the many trials they face. Each woman has high integrity and stands up for what's morally right, even at the expense of what she wants. 

Violence & Scariness

One scene shows a stagecoach robbery at gunpoint, and the perpetrators threaten the riders with knives.

Sexy Stuff

A couple of budding relationships between adults follow traditional rules of courtship, so there's no physical contact of a sexual nature.


The show is based on a series of books by Janette Oke. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Rarely adults smoke or drink in keeping with the traditions of the time, but it doesn't play a role in the story.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that When Calls the Heart is a historical drama based on faith-based author Janette Oke's bestselling book series about the Canadian frontier. Both central characters are stellar role models, high in integrity, compassion, and faith and are unwilling to let others' expectations decide their fate. The leisurely pace might lose the attention of younger kids, but, if you can get yours to watch, it's a beautiful story with roots in relationships, self-empowerment, and the enduring power of love. Aside from a tense encounter with armed robbers and a few other reminders of the harsh frontier life -- including mention of the death of a young boy -- there's nothing to fear in sharing this story with the whole family.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byshie L. May 22, 2018
Parent of a 6 and 8-year-old Written byDCmomoftwo February 17, 2016

Old fashioned show for the whole family

Our whole family is enjoying this show so much! I turned it on thinking it was something I could watch in the presence of the kids, but they are addicted, and e... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bylwilliams2007 March 18, 2021

Good show!

Very good show but gets boring at times.
Teen, 14 years old Written byconfusedginger56 April 29, 2020

Family Friendly Show!

I've seen all of the show, and I watch it with my dad. It's really for all ages, with the exception of younger children who don't do well with ki... Continue reading

What's the story?

Elizabeth Thatcher (Polly Draper) is vivacious and determined, eager to embark on a teaching career and to inspire the next generation of young students. But when she's faced with a teaching assignment that would take her far from her life of privilege and society to a primitive frontier town out West, she struggles to discern her true calling. The timely discovery of her long-lost Aunt Elizabeth's (Maggie Grace) diary immerses her in the elder's experiences with just that kind of decision. Ultimately she's inspired by her aunt's account of love and loss in her own small prairie town and she embarks on a journey to her new life, accompanied by Edward (Daniel Sharman), a family friend who's charged with her safe travels. What she finds when she arrives will test her resolve, but her faith in God and in herself will see her through the challenges ahead.

Is it any good?

WHEN CALLS THE HEART is the second of Janette Oke's book series to be transformed into a beautiful historical drama by the Hallmark Channel, preceded by the beloved Love Comes Softly movie collection. Oke's compelling characters make easy inspiration for TV, and the two Elizabeths about whom this tale is told are no exception. Bred in East Coast society and groomed for lives of money and status, they choose different paths that bring them face to face with fear, pain, and loss but that also show them the true meaning of love that conquers all. They challenge expectations and defy the odds, not in an antagonistic way but in a way that makes you want to drum up a similar supply of inner strength.

This beautifully scripted adaptation leaves no gaps in its hops from the time of young Elizabeth to that of her older aunt, thanks to the binding agent of Aunt Elizabeth's journal. Their lives mirror each other, but each distinct personality shines, and the story never feels repetitive. If you're searching for a worry-free movie with something for the whole family, you can't go wrong with this quality period piece.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how each Elizabeth is a role model. Can her determination be emulated? How do today's challenges compare to the severity of those of 19th-century frontier life?

  • Kids: Where do you get your inner strength? Have you ever made it through something you thought would be too hard? How does it feel to do so?

  • Faith is a recurring theme in this story, and, although it's assumed the characters practice Christianity, the generic message of faith can cross denominations. Is the belief in a higher power a strong force in your life? If so, how does it guide your actions on a daily basis?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love inspiration

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate