Making the Grades
"There is a connection between heaven and earth. Finding that connection makes everything meaningful, including death. Missing it makes everything meaningless, including life." -- John Groberg
John Groberg (Christopher Gorham), a precocious boy from Idaho, doesn't let obstacles stand in his way. Blowing trumpet for a dance band at university in the early 1950s, the nineteen-year-old jumps off the stage to claim the girl of his dreams -- even though she's sock-hopping with someone else. When asked by his church to serve a mission on the other side of the world, he tells Jean (Anne Hathaway) to wait for him -- for a mere three years.
An arduous journey finally brings the highly anticipated "great white preacher" to a remote Tongan island. Groberg's tenacity and commitment are immediately put to the test as he adjusts to the primitive conditions, tries to master the language, and attempts to live up to the congregation's expectations. But his greatest challenge is convincing the people not to sacrifice their souls. As mere existence demands everything, many residents believe liquor or prostituting their virtue are the only ways to a brighter future. With the assistance of Feki (Joe Folau) -- a faithful local who helps him understand the culture -- the young missionary embarks on the daunting task that can only be accomplished by finding a meaningful connection between heaven and earth.
Based on a true story, this inspirational tale was shot on location in the Cook Islands. Perhaps its only flaw is Gorham's somewhat flat character's unfailing ability to overcome endless obstacles and temptations, including redirecting the desires of a young woman who drops her clothes (no nudity shown) and begs for his passion. Parents may also be concerned that some depictions of intense storms, and suffering due to poverty, may be unsettling for young viewers.
Despite a tight budget, first time writer-director Mitch Davis and powerhouse producer Gerald Molen (Schindler's List, Jurassic Park) have created a film that never appears cash restricted. Families searching for examples of unwavering faith and determination will enjoy this cinematic achievement -- a rare find this side of heaven.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Other Side Of Heaven.
Although John Groberg looks a little nervous about leaving the security of his familiar life, what proves to be the most difficult thing he has to do?
Looking at the Tongans, Groberg observes, “These people have nothing, and yet they have everything.” What does he mean?