After spending the night together on the night of their college graduation Dexter and Em are shown each year on the same date to see where they are in their lives. They are sometimes together, sometimes not, on that day.
John H. Groberg, a middle class kid from Idaho Falls, crosses the Pacific to become a Mormon missionary in the remote and exotic Tongan island kingdom during the 1950's. He leaves behind a loving family and the true love of his life, Jean. Through letters and musings across the miles, John shares his humbling and sometimes hilarious adventures with "the girl back home", and her letters buoy up his spirits in difficult times. John must struggle to overcome language barriers, physical hardship and deep-rooted suspicion to earn the trust and love of the Tongan people he has come to serve. Throughout his adventure-filled three years on the islands, he discovers friends and wisdom in the most unlikely places. John H. Groberg's Tongan odyssey will change his life forever. Written by
Mary Jane Jones
Rats really did eat the soles off John H. Groberg's feet; they split open when he stood up. Later in life he was diagnosed with skin cancer on the soles of his feet. His doctor was curious about how he exposed the soles of his feet to the sun, and he explained that the treatment for his injury in Tonga had been to sear his soles with the heat of the sun. See more »
The majority of Tongan characters speak with New Zealand accents throughout the film, although the only white people they have supposedly been in contact with are the American missionaries. This is due to the fact that most of the actors portraying Tongans are actually from New Zealand or the Cook Islands. A lot of the Tongan dialogue is also mis-pronounced throughout the film. See more »
There is a connection between heaven and earth. Finding that connection gives meaning to everything, including death. Losing that connection makes everything lose meaning, including life.
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Considering that this movie was neither made by, nor endorsed by, the LDS church, The Other Side of Heaven is an endearing, uplifting movie that celebrates and pays respect to Mormon missionaries without going too deep into LDS philosophy or beliefs. Produced in part by the same producer who brought us such cinematic gems as Schindler's List and Jurassic Park, Heaven is refreshingly devoid of many "blockbuster"-style elements and is a very low-key presentation of a young man's struggle to survive, adapt, and succeed in a world far far away from his familiar hometown in Idaho.
In the early 1950's Elder John Groberg from Idaho Falls accepts a call to serve a three-year LDS mission to Tonga. Although he is thrilled and dedicated to his mission call, he is understandably concerned about leaving Jean, the love of his life, in Utah for fear that she will marry somebody else. Yet his faith and determination to do what he believes is right are shown throughout this movie as his motivation to stay through the hardships, the loneliness, and the difficulties that are faced during his mission.
The Other Side of Heaven is essentially a chronicle of Elder Groberg's true life mission. At times spiritual, humorous, frightening, and uplifting, the movie is a tribute to a young man who faced overwhelming odds and setbacks to continually overcome some of the most difficult situations ever beset a young missionary. Throughout the film, Elder Groberg's letters to Jean and her letters back to him keep the film centered on it's true message, that of a man out of place . . . loving where he is, but wishing at the same time, to be home with the others that he loves. And it is this internal struggle which, I am sure, has been faced by every other missionary in history, that gives the movie its depth and emotional quality.
My only criticism of the movie comes from the very brief explanation of the traditions and culture surrounding LDS missionaries and the way in which they receive their calls. For those who are familiar with LDS missions, this should be no problem, but for those viewers who have not been exposed to the process of a Mormon mission, the first 15 or 20 minutes may seem a bit confusing. There is another bit of Mormon tradition which is very poorly explained, but I can't tell you what it is without giving away a fairly poignant moment of the film's ending.
Nevertheless, The Other Side of Heaven is not just a Mormon movie. It is a movie that can be enjoyed and appreciated by people of all faiths (and even those of no faith). Because in the final analysis, this is a movie about the triumph of the spirit and the joys and rewards of fighting for, and doing something, you truly believe in.
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