on May 19, 2004
This is the story of a young Mormon missionary who goes to Tonga for 2 1/2 years and lives and works with the people on a remote island. It shows him struggling against nature - from mosquitos to hurricanes to storms at sea. These add a lot of drama to the story. He also struggles with himself and his faith and you see him grow and develop from somewhat stiff and self-conscious to warm and open and serving. The story does well to show these struggles without casting him as an idiot who eventually "learns better". It also shows the Tongan natives with respect and warmth. Although their language and culture are different from the young missionary's, they are loving and minister to him as he reaches out to them. The initial resistance from the established minister on the island is resolved with respect as well.
There are a few parts that might have been improved. Does this poor guy really have to wear a tie every day in this tropical location? And when the native men get baptized by him, what does it mean that they are then wearing white dress shirts and ties as well? Is the implication that only Western office attire is "righteous"?
Other than wardrobe, though, the film does seem to show respect for the Tongan natives. It also gives a glimpse of some of the crises they may face. Devastation by hurricanes, being cut off from communication and food supplies, lack of medical services, being exploited by Westerners (who entice some of the young women to leave with them - clearly intending to sell them into prostitution), as well as the seemingly universal problems of alcoholism and family conflict, etc.
on November 17, 2003
I liked this movie alot. I wish more people would get a change to see it. It is for adults though(some blood and stuff),so I wouldn't recomend(if your an adult)letting your kid see it unless you have already seen it and can convince them to close their eyes during the gross parts. If its even possible not to see this movie because it rocks! I saw it for Family Home Evening (if you are not a Latter Day Saint that is what we do once a week on Mondays or in our case,Sundays when we to church related but fun things)Yestersay and it is my third favorite movie(compared to spirited away and spy kids 3d) it is sad in some parts and scary in lots of parts. Its just one of those movies(Actuallly,the only one I've seen)where what's happening twists and turns and you have absoulutly no idea what will happen next. Plus it has lots of humor and Its really woderful. And if you think your not going to like it,your wrong,because I loved it and I thought it would be boring. As soon as it started,I was hooked. Unlike my second favorite moie spy kids 3D. So umm (insert closey sentence thingy here)!
on July 21, 2003
There are those who will hate anything and everything about this movie simply because it portrays the central characters,
a Latter-day Saint ("Mormon") missionary, his girlfriend, and the south sea island members of his church the same way any other people of faith would be portrayed in any family film. If you hold those predjudices, nothing as inconsequential as a movie is going to help you grow beyond them. Other people may be put off by some aspects of the storyline, finding it a bit like MAYBURY RFD or PETTICOAT JUNCTION, but one should remember that the story is set in the 1950's, and it remains true to the spirit, if not all of the specific details, of the autobiographical account of a 1950's Idaho boy placed in a south seas island culture, and an island society living much closer to the 1800s than the 2000s, at that. With those two exceptions, most viewers will find that the movie has several tremendous selling-points: Stunning visual images, likeable characters, and a general positive showing of "family values," a.k.a., univerally-accepted virtues such as integrity, determination, compassion, etc. I rate it four stars because, well, it is a comparatively low-budget film, and if they had spent more money they might have been able to afford "Star Wars" special effects, a "Touched by an Angel" soundtrack, and an "Indiana Jones" bounty of props, character-actors, and extras. On the other hand, you and I both know that no big-budget movie company would have ever touched it -- and a very good film would have never been made -- so the fifth star is the price we paid for the four stars we have.
on April 23, 2003
"The Other Side of Heaven" is based on the true story of John H. Groberg's experience as a missionary on the South Pacific island of Tonga. The movie was produced by Academy Award winner Gerald Molen, producer of "Schindler's List" and "Jurassic Park," and released by Excel Entertainment, an outlet for Mormon media, and it's rated "PG."
Groberg (Christopher Gorham) was called by the Church for a three-year mission assignment to Tonga when he was a 20-year-old student at Brigham Young University in the 1950's. Before leaving he makes a vague pact with his girlfriend, Jean, (Ann Hathaway). A difficult seven week journey takes him to the South Pacific, where he meets his native Christian assistant and companion, Feki, (Joe Falou), and they finally arrive at the remote island of Niuatoputapu. Groberg has been instructed to do two things: learn the language and build the "kingdom."
Initially treated with scorn by the natives, he sets about to learn the language by reading the bible in English and in Polynesian. After four days he has mastered the language, and begins to win the respect of the natives. From here on, it's a series of incidents, each of which is a sort of independent story: he resuscitates a seriously injured child; sleeping with his feet exposed leads to rats nibbling on the soles of his feet, requiring weeks of treatment to "seal" his feet; a boat trip with two natives nearly drowns them all when the boat is capsized by a storm; a severe storm destroys the island food supply, and everyone nearly starves to death.
The young native women are fascinated with Groberg, and one in particular offers herself---but Groberg is not tempted. He is finally taken to task by the girl's mother for rejecting the daughter, but Groberg explains his moral view and his commitment to his true love in the U.S. His experiences and his feelings are also conveyed through a series of letters to Jean, his fantasies about her, and her letters to him. They ultimately marry, in the movie and in real life, and return many times for mission work in the South Pacific.
There is lavish cinematography of the spectacularly beautiful islands and beaches, as Groberg grows to love both the people and the places. The storm special effects are very well done. It is a thoroughly enjoyable story, made even more interesting by the knowledge that it is basically true.
The movie can be criticized for it's single-minded perspective on the role of the missionary, and there is little insight into the indigenous culture of the natives. But it's very entertaining, and it's staggering to think of the hardships missionaries have endured to bring the benefits of our civilization to these far-flung places (a mixed blessing, some will say). The story is told without proselytizing. Theology and faith are important underlying ingredients but are not emphasized at all. It's pure story telling, with no F words, little or no violence, a love story with no gratuitous sex. I recommend it if you can enjoy an uplifting story, absent those typically R-rated elements.
on May 21, 2003
For the most part I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. At least the first time around. After that I noticed something that I overlooked in the first viewing. The main character is supposed to be John Groberg, but as protagonists go he breaks one of the cardinal rules of storytelling, in that the protagonist is supposed to be the most compelling character. In the scene where the rich man with the yacht is taking girls onboard his ship the Protestant minister, and the LDS Branch President protest, but Elder Groberg stands by and does nothing. I also felt that the cutting between the scene onboard with the ship and the baptismal scene took much away from the power that the baptismal scene could have had. It seemed to me that the makers were a little afraid to show what Mormon culture was like in the islands. LDS filmmakers need to create stories and films of this quility, but not be afraid to show the LDS culture. (But don't go overboard as other LDS filmmakers have.)
on April 16, 2003
Beautiful scenery captures my attention but don't think for a moment that this is the most important criteria that weighs in for an evaluation on how good it may be. The acting is superb, a wonderful adventure plot based on a true story and is a real uplifting experience. The people are natural, sincere and made me reflect on how our complex lifestyle in many ways lacks the quality characteristics which hold the very fibres of family unity together. It made me laugh, it made me cry and above all made me think about what really lacks in many of our lives. The true spirit of giving of oneself in a totally unselfish manner and with almost blind faith is truly an admirable and courageous act. Highly recommended even if you don't think you'll like it. If humanity and love of mankind is up your alley then this movie's for you.
on April 5, 2003
With the recent release of many "mormon culture" films, this is one that is really different and that people mormon and non-mormon can all relate to. It is a story of faith, love and triumph over adversity. I've read some of the other reviews of this movie saying that it is insulting to the people of Tonga, but it was not meant to be. I felt that it was handled very well. I saw in this movie a beautiful people who have good values and are filled with love. This movie and the book, which I also highly recommend, inspire me and in a world filled with so much filth, it is something I can watch and feel uplifted. The only reason I gave it 4 out of 5 stars is because of Anne Hathaway. I'm just not a big fan of her as an actress and felt that someone else could have played her part in the movie less annoyingly.
on April 11, 2003
Being married to a Tongan, I watched this movie already having a good insight into the Tongan people and culture. The only reason many Tongan people I know didn't enjoy it as much is because most of the actors/actresses in the film are not Tongan--they are Cook Islanders (where the movie was filmed). Of course, the actor I liked the most was Kolipoki's Tongan companion--a real Tongan. But I did enjoy all the performances--Polynesians are natural actors. And my husband's favorite part, which is becoming mine too, is when Kolipoki mistakenly says "outhouse," and a Tongan woman knocks over another Tongan woman for laughing. Those are the Tongans I know and love! ...Malo e lelei!
on August 6, 2003
This movie had me riveted and it stuck with me. The acting was very good, it had humor, memorable imagery, touching moments (got teared up a bit, I admit) and a great spirtual message. It's based on the true story of John Grohberg's mission to Tonga, but doesn't appeal only to Mormons, with its Mormon protagonist. The message is universal and there is no uniquely Mormon doctrine to make people of other faiths uncomfortable. It's not recommended for very young kids as some scenes are quite inappropriate for them. I recommend this to anyone who is tired of Hollywood filth and is spiritual.
on April 20, 2003
If you are interested in missionary work this is the movie for you. It provides great insight into the missionary field. I believe the film does a fairly good job not to affiliate with any one religion (only one strong reference to the Mormon Faith). The movie was entertaining and kept my interest.
My wife was a missionary for 3 years and she truly enjoyed it, making her reminisce of her younger years.