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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that When Calls the Heart: The Heart of Faith is the DVD release of 2016's TV Christmas special (originally titled When Calls the Heart: Heart of Christmas), which opened Season 4 of When Calls the Heart, the ongoing Hallmark Channel series. The movie features all the regular TV characters, and while it will have more resonance for series' fans, it can be viewed as a stand-alone movie. The story is so simply told that it's easy to catch up on significant characters and continuing plot elements. Set on the North American frontier in the early years of the 20th century, the movie is narrated by a young schoolteacher who is well along at integrating into a community of good-hearted pioneers who have strong values and rely on both their Christian faith and one another. It's a holiday tale, from beginning to end, with even the least likable citizen of Hope Valley learning important lessons about the spirit of Christmas. There are a few references to recent tragedies in the valley -- some of the townspeople are recovering from grief and a flood's destruction of their homes. Other than that, it's wholesome, uplifting, and fine for all who enjoy sincere messages and feel-good resolutions.
What's the story?
It's only days before Christmas Eve, and schoolteacher Elizabeth Thatcher (Erin Krakow) is determined to make the holiday a special one in WHEN CALLS THE HEART: THE HEART OF FAITH. The town of Hope Valley is still recovering from a deadly flood. Homes need to be found for those displaced, and Constable Jack Thornton (Daniel Lissing) leads the way, hoping to have everyone in a residence before the Christmas Eve celebration. But, as usual in such remote valleys, not everything happens smoothly. A freight train carrying toys, costumes, and construction materials has derailed on its journey. The town mayor, disgraced and injured, has returned to Hope Valley and is furious that the very efficient Abigail (Lori Loughlin) has stepped in to take on his duties. One recently widowed victim of the flood is overwhelmed by what has happened to her family and seems to have given up all hope for herself and her young son. And into the valley comes a sweet-talking, curious peddler, who always seems to be in the right place at the right time, with just the right wares on his sturdy wagon. As the holiday pageant and community Christmas Eve dinner get closer, problems get bigger -- but not so big that they can't be solved with teamwork, faith, and a little ingenuity.
Is it any good?
Old-fashioned faith-based values, simplicity, and problems solved and tied up in a bright red Christmas ribbon are the hallmarks of this special episode of a television cable series. Neither the project's obvious low-budget production values nor the predictability should spoil fans' enjoyment of When Calls the Heart: The Heart of Faith. If you like Elizabeth, Abigail, Jack, and Bill (Jack Wagner), prominent citizens of Hope Valley on the Hallmark Channel series, you probably won't mind the fact that there's less than stellar acting among some of the other folks who live there. Terence Kelly gives an appealing guest performance as Sam Bailey, a conventional peddler (or maybe not). Because the story is set at Christmastime, abundant religious messages are delivered along with the usual homespun notions about life, love, community, and facing the difficulties that are encountered in a frontier town.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the increasing practice of releasing one "special episode" of a TV series as a movie on DVD. If you hadn't seen the series When Calls the Heart, do you think The Heart of Faith was a successful introduction to the setting and the characters? Did the filmmakers clearly include enough of the show's backstory that you weren't confused? Are you now motivated to watch the series?
How do lessons learned and the good values expressed in When Calls the Heart: The Heart of Faith, set more than a hundred years ago, still have meaning for today's audiences? Does this movie give you a sense of the timelessness of people working together toward a common goal? What other messages did you take away from this story?
Do you believe that Sam Bailey was exactly who he said he was -- a peddler? What evidence do you have that his character might have been something more than that? Who or what do you think he might have been? Why?
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