I was a teenager when this movie came out and I loved it. My friends loved it. My mother and her friend loved it. We watched it over and over. It was a feel good movie that made us laugh, cry, and cringe. At that time, I don’t know if I fully understood how profound it was but I do know that I had some takeaways without anyone teaching me about the metaphors to look for. Years have passed (20 years actually) and there were so many times that I felt like watching it again but I didn’t because it was unavailable on whatever platforms I searched for it on at the time (usually Netflix or Amazon). Then when someone brought the movie up the other day I knew that in this year (2020) it would be a little easier to access on my mobile device. So I did and I watched it twice back to back.
Here is what prompted me to search for it again. One of my former students, a dear friend, made it the topic of her podcast (Play it again, Kyla). This came as no surprise because I knew when I was her English Teacher in Middle school she had already expressed a deep appreciation for the film and she has since expressed that appreciation time and time again into adulthood. I remember feeling about the movie the way she did. I couldn’t get enough it. In high school, I recall a friend of mine pointing out some of the film editing quirks such as when Sally Field (in her brief cameo) is stomping out a cigarette and raises her hand with a new one magically appearing between her fingers still lit. Yeah, it was fast and an extremely minute detail that no doubt would most likely be caught by someone who watched it very closely; it would probably be noticed by someone who re-watched the film over and over. That was us. My friends and I were hooked into this story line and the actresses that made the characters feel real.
So as Kyla mentioned in her podcast, this movie isn’t known for special effects or being a big budget production. It is really the story line and the well timed lines in the script that make the movie so memorable. Until she mentioned it, I didn’t remember how sharp the movie scene cuts were or how simple the cinematography was. What I remember was the young women who were mothers and friends and how they navigated love and loss. I remember how amazing their friendships were and that they were cross generational. I remember they were imperfect people who were good to one another. So without spoilers I’m going to share with you why this movie is excellent for teen and young adult women to see and discuss with trusted mentors like their mothers, grandmothers, and motherly figures.
Parental Advisory: It is not a PureFlix film and it is not squeaky clean. It isn’t vulgar either. There is some profanity, not a pervasive amount but it is present. There are also some heavy, mature topics. While it never gets graphic, sex as a topic is brought up in terms of promiscuity, fornication, marital, and abuse. Not everything is spelled out explicitly but it’s there and it’s something for young women to discuss with friends and wise mentors.
Important Themes to Discuss in Where the Heart Is
- Self Worth
Throughout the film women grapple with their self worth but they do it in different ways. There’s one with obvious insecurity who questions whether she is good or worthy of healthy relationships. There’s the woman who smiles and seems to exude confidence but often settles for non committal relationships that result in unplanned pregnancies. There’s the recovering alcoholic who serves God and others with her time and resources. These characters are so relatable and interesting and you can have great discussions on the importance of self worth and how a poor view of yourself can affect you and your decisions.
2. Love vs. Lust
Our main characters find themselves in healthy and unhealthy relationships and it really boils down to the difference between lust and pure love. What a great illustration to use when encouraging young women to wait for “the one” and not just some dude who “looks good in jeans and a white tee shirt”. This movie provides a great illustration of how to know “the pick of the litter” and your romantic heart will really appreciate it.
3. Choices and Consequences
I think this movie illustrates how much you can still love people who don’t always make wise choices but you can also clearly see that they are living with their choices without spelling it out. I think of the character Lexie who says, “I wanted to find my first baby a daddy, but then I just ended up with another baby. So then I wanted to find them both a daddy, and so forth. I think I’m going about this all wrong.”
4. Teaching vs. Condemnation
I love this one. Hinting back at the self worth theme, some of these characters may feel that they don’t deserve the best because of their past sins. It’s obvious that they are learning through life experience and being around people who love them but when traveling religious people come to condemn, it is not well received. One of the main characters illustrates this theme well by frequently repenting for her own sin but not condemning anyone else.
5. We are all capable of good and sin
The character Novalee puts it well when she says, “You tell them we’ve all got meanness in us, but we’ve got goodness too. And the only thing worth living for is the good. And that’s why we’ve got to make sure we pass it on.” None of us are immune to sin and bad choices but we get to choose everyday what we will do.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my take on viewing this film with friends and loved ones. I truly believe you can have some healthy discussions after viewing the film and it also has great entertainment value. The script was well crafted and executed so it is no surprise that it captured so many of our hearts immediately. As a mom and a lover of story telling, I do recommend this film with only mild precautions from a Christian Worldview. Thank you for reading my review!