Where the Heart Is

  • Review Date: July 7, 2003
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2000
  • Running Time: 121 minutes

Common Sense Media says

A chick flick that's as yummy as eating bon-bons.
  • Review Date: July 7, 2003
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2000
  • Running Time: 121 minutes





What parents need to know


Characters in peril, two badly injured. Some sad and scary moments, two bad injuries, a sad death.


Many sexual references, main character is a pregnant teenager, other out of wedlock children.


Some strong language.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A character abuses alcohol and drugs. Another attends AA meetings.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie has some strong language and that Novalee and Lexie have children without being married. Sister Husband prays for forgiveness for "fornication." Women have sex with men who abandon them. One character has sex with someone who has suffered a loss, and the implication is that this is a form of comfort. A character abuses drugs and alcohol, and three others are alcoholics (two recovering). One character is killed, and two others are badly injured. A man attempts to molest two children (off-screen).

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

WHERE THE HEART IS stars Natalie Portman as Novalee Nation, a pregnant 17-year-old abandoned at a Wal-Mart by her boyfriend. She moves into the Wal-Mart, keeping careful track of everything she takes, and becomes something of a sensation when she ends up having the baby in the Wal-Mart. Sister Husband (Stockard Channing), a dotty but affectionate recovering alcoholic, takes her in. Novalee makes two other friends -- Lexie (Ashley Judd), a kind-hearted nurse who is always looking for Mr. Right but finding herself pregnant instead, and Forney (James Frain) a brilliant librarian with a sad secret. Novalee and her friends cope with tragedy and learn to "let go of what's gone and hold on like hell to what they've got." They acknowledge the sadness and unfairness and meanness in life, but they "hold on to the goodness and pass it on." Novalee and Lexie must also learn that they deserve to be loved and cared for.

Is it any good?


You don't have to ask where the heart is in this movie – it's all heart. All of the elements are there -- a plucky heroine with adversity to overcome; a love interest who is cute, patient, and endlessly devoted, and who completely adores the heroine's daughter; an abashed ex-love interest to realize the error of his ways; and an assortment of women friends, also endlessly devoted, to support and be supported, and everyone just as colorful and quirky as can be.

This movie is worth seeing just to watch five of the finest actresses in movies. Natalie Portman is radiant as Novalee, and it is a pleasure to see her bloom before our eyes. Ashley Judd is delicious as Lexie, explaining that she named her children after snack foods and getting excited about each new husband prospect. And then she is heart-wrenching when she must deal with the unthinkable. Joan Cusack is sensational as a music promoter who has seen it all and has no illusions. Sally Fields contributes a magnificent cameo as Novalee's wayward mother. Just the way she smokes a cigarette tells us everything about her life since she left home. And Stockard Channing makes us see how Sister Husband's life may have left her a little addled on minor details, but utterly clear about the important things.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about one character's view that people lie because they are "scared or crazy or just mean," about another character's statement that "home is where they catch you when you fall" and about what makes it possible for some people to survive deprivation and tragedy. They should also talk about what made it difficult for Lexie and Novalee to accept love from good men. And they should talk about the extraordinary kindness the characters show each other, particularly the thoughtful way that Sister Husband invites Novalee and her baby to live with her, making it sound as though Novalee is doing her the favor.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 28, 2000
DVD release date:September 26, 2000
Cast:Ashley Judd, Natalie Portman, Stockard Channing
Director:Matt Williams
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox
Run time:121 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:intense thematic material, language and sexual content

This review of Where the Heart Is was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more


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, okay 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.

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

Kid, 12 years old March 26, 2011

This one's a keeper, but bring tissues!

I love this movie! I think the message in the end is a great one that kids - and I'm not excluding myself when I say this - really need to take to heart. This shows that not everyone has a path in life paved in gold. It's a tear jerker! It breaks my heart that this really happened. A true story like that makes a good movie, but it's truly tragic. I feel bad for all the people who were portrayed in that movie. I feel bad for the main character - of course, the people who died, who suffered, even for the man who abandoned her and got hit by that train. Tragic - but an amazing movie for the whole family.
What other families should know
Great messages
Teen, 15 years old Written byKass April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

A chick flick in the truest sense of the word

Where the Heart Is is a sweet film that girls will undoubtedly adore. While it's punctuated by tragic events- molestation, abandonment, a tornado, several deaths- naturally the good prevail, the wicked suffer, and everyone learns a lesson by its conclusion.
Kid, 10 years old January 8, 2011
pretty good not pg-13 though more like a new rating like PG_10!
What other families should know
Too much swearing


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


What are the different ways that you access Common Sense Media ratings and information? (Check all that apply)

Essential Apps Guide