Where the Heart Is

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Where the Heart Is Movie Poster Image
A chick flick that's as yummy as eating bon-bons.
  • PG-13
  • 2000
  • 121 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 7 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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


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.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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

What 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).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJulia M March 4, 2021

Main Character was a lacking personality

I liked it but i need find it a little bit boring. I felt like the main character was a little boring and lifeless (Even thought Natalie Portman is a great actr... Continue reading
Parent Written bylenny l. December 17, 2016
I thought this film was a great film to watch as an adult and with your older teen children depending on maturity. It provokes great life lessons. Contrary to o... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byMaya16 July 9, 2016

Beautifully written film

This movie is a really good movie enough though it has some intense moments. Younger children might get scared during some of the scenes. I think that most chil... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byvballglam August 2, 2013

Great but sad!!

It is a movie I would watch again!!! I loved it but really? how many sad things can they put into one movie. the movie is based upon a pregnant 17 year old who... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love chick flicks

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