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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that When Calls the Heart: Heart of a Hero is a compilation of two stories from Season 3 of the Hallmark Channel television series When Calls the Heart, based on the book by Janette Oke. It's a series with both drama and romance about 19th-century small-town life on the Canadian frontier. The story is very strong on messages and female role models, promoting community, family, love, redemption, kindness, and the capable women who live and flourish in Hope Valley. There are a few references to faith and prayer, as well. Two short action sequences feature a fistfight, and there's an altercation with gunfire when law enforcement captures a heartless gang of villains. This movie is best viewed by kids who are familiar with the characters and situations in place when the story begins. First-timers will be puzzled by narratives that pick up midstream and other plotting that will obviously conclude after this DVD ends. However, each of the two tales offers some closure, and the experience may win the series some new fans.
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What's the story?
Hope Valley has its share of problems when WHEN CALLS THE HEART: HEART OF A HERO opens. The small town on the 19th-century Canadian frontier, with its engaging cast of players -- teacher Elizabeth (Erin Krakow), café owner Abigail (Lori Loughlin), Pastor Frank (Mark Humphrey), and Constable Jack (Daniel Lissing), a member of the Canadian Mounties -- care deeply about each other and their community. In the first story, because of his past, Pastor Frank has been threatened by a vicious gang of outlaws. The stalwart Abigail is still questioning her romantic feelings for him because of that past. Former Canadian Mountie Bill (Jack Wagner) thinks he has a long-wanted killer in his sights. And Elizabeth, concerned about Abigail's adopted son, needs to get to the bottom of the little boy's unexpected misbehavior. In the second story, a new child enters Elizabeth's school; a series of accidents at the local sawmill may not be accidents at all; and a young nurse turns to Jack as she reconsiders her future.
Is it any good?
The strong messages, bright romances, and child-centered storylines make this an agreeable experience. (Despite the questionable integrity of releasing two episodes from the middle of a series' season as a stand-only DVD, that is.) Some of the performances are mediocre, and When Calls the Heart: Heart of a Hero finds very pat solutions to some serious problems (for example, recovery from grief, the breakup of an engaged couple), but this series is guided by simplicity and good intentions and it succeeds at both. Caution: Most of the characters and some of the situations are well-established as the "movie" opens, and several plot elements are not resolved and carry over to later episodes. Fine for families and tweens.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Elizabeth's "voice-over" at the beginning of each of the stories in When Calls the Heart: Heart of a Hero; her narration offers important messages that have a place in the story you're about to see. Is it helpful? How does it increase your understanding of the characters' behavior and the outcome of the drama?
Elizabeth's charming schoolhouse is very different from today's busy classroom. What are some of the issues your teachers have to deal with that Elizabeth didn't? Do you think there still might be room for lessons about "kindness" and looking out for one another?
Were you familiar with the When Calls the Heart series on the Hallmark Channel before you saw this? If not, did watching this film encourage you to see more of the series? Why do you think film companies release episodes in a group and call it a movie? Do you agree with this practice? Why, or why not?
- On DVD or streaming: June 7, 2016
- Cast: Erin Krakow, Daniel Lissing, Lori Loughlin
- Director: Neall Fearnley
- Studio: Shout! Factory
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Book Characters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Character strengths: Compassion, Courage
- Run time: 84 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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