The Other Side of Heaven

Starring:
Christopher Gorham as John Groberg
Anne Hathaway as Jean Sabin
Joe Folau as Feki
Miriama Smith as Lavania
Nathaniel Lees
Whetu Fala as Asi
Alvin Fitisemanu as Tomasi
Peter Sa’ena Brown as Kuli
Apii McKinley as Noli
John Sumner as President Stone

Special Features:
The Making Of The Other Side Of Heaven – Behind-the-scenes featurette
Audio Commentary by Director Mitch Davis
Still Gallery

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Running Time: 113 Minutes

Synopsis:
This film is based on a true story.

In the 1950′s, 19-year-old John Groberg is sent by the Mormon Church on a mission to a small Polynesian island. Leaving his potential fiancĂ©e behind, he heads into the unknown for a 3-year stay. After a less than pleasant trip, he finally arrives on the island. He finds nobody speaks English, there’s a rival preacher on the island who despises him, and he faces culture shock. However, with the help of a young islander named Feki, he begins to settle in and become part of the community.

He ends up being very successful in spreading the Mormon religion around the local islands. He must deal with many challenges including a typhoon, superstitious locals, sickness, and shipwrecks. But a positive spirit and a strong faith in God help see him through.

“The Other Side Of Heaven” is rated PG for thematic elements and brief disturbing images.

The Movie:
I had never heard of this movie before it arrived on DVD. It apparently was first released in 2001. Despite being unfamiliar with it, I still enjoyed it. It’s a pleasant story that is funny, dramatic, interesting and uplifting. It’s a rare kind of film to find these days, especially from a major studio.

Knowing it was about Mormons, I was wondering if I was going to be beat over the head with their doctrine. Fortunately, that’s not the case at all. More time is spent on general aspects of John Groberg’s faith than anything specific. There’s enough religion to keep it about his Christian faith without presenting anything you might disagree with. Christians will find it an uplifting tale about the missionary field and atheists will find it a good story about becoming part of other cultures. There’s something for everyone.

Christopher Gorham is excellent as John Groberg. He displays the right amount of naivetĂ© at the beginning and the right amount of wisdom and experience at the end. You can tell by the end of the film that’s he’s a changed man. Doing this type of mission work is a tremendous burden for a young man and Gorham plays it in a realistic way. Anne Hathaway also stars as Jean Sabin. Fans of hers from The Princess Diaries will be disappointed that she has only a minor role in this film, but she plays an important part nonetheless. The Polynesian supporting cast is also excellent and provides a wide variety of colorful characters.

The locations in the film are absolutely beautiful. It will make you long for a Hawaiian vacation. You become so used to the exotic locales that when John returns to Idaho, you really feel his reverse culture shock. Everything seems very odd. The music in the film is also a great mixture of Polynesian music and Christian hymns. It’s a strange yet beautiful combination.

Overall “The Other Side Of Heaven” is a good film and worth checking out if you get a chance.

The Extras:
This DVD features a couple of good extras:

The Making Of “The Other Side Of Heaven” – This is a surprisingly thorough feature on the making of the film. Running about 25 minutes long, it talks about the real life John Groberg, filming on Tonga, casting Anne Hathaway and Christopher Gorham, and more. They get in depth into the making of the typhoon scenes, the 1950′s dance scene, and other key moments in the plot. Much of the cast and crew is interviewed and there’s a ton of behind the scenes footage. It’s a nice follow up after watching the movie.

Audio Commentary by Director Mitch Davis – Davis delivers a pretty good commentary. He keeps the discussion moving along and not only talks about what’s happening on the screen but behind it as well. He offers a lot of interesting trivia about making the movie, the actors, and more. It’s a commentary worth checking out.

The Bottom Line:
Overall “The Other Side Of Heaven” is a good DVD. With an uplifting family film and some nice, though brief, extras, it’s worth at least a video store rental.

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