John Groberg, a farm kid from Idaho Falls, crosses an ocean to become a missionary in the remote and exotic Tongan islands during the 1950s.John Groberg, a farm kid from Idaho Falls, crosses an ocean to become a missionary in the remote and exotic Tongan islands during the 1950s.John Groberg, a farm kid from Idaho Falls, crosses an ocean to become a missionary in the remote and exotic Tongan islands during the 1950s.
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.
- Dec 20, 2001