Missionary John H. Groberg returns to Tonga in the 1960s with his wife and their five young daughters. When their sixth child is born with a serious illness, the Grobergs face their ... See full summary »
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John H. Groberg, a middle class kid from Idaho Falls, crosses the Pacific to become a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint missionary in the remote and exotic Tongan island kingdom during the 1950's. He leaves behind a loving family and the true love of his life, Jean. Through letters and musings across the miles, John shares his humbling and sometimes hilarious adventures with "the girl back home", and her letters buoy up his spirits in difficult times. John must struggle to overcome language barriers, physical hardship and deep-rooted suspicion to earn the trust and love of the Tongan people he has come to serve. Throughout his adventure-filled three years on the islands, he discovers friends and wisdom in the most unlikely places. John H. Groberg's Tongan odyssey will change his life forever.Written by
Mary Jane Jones
John H. Groberg really did isolate himself to study the Bible for four days in order to improve his Tongan. In reality, he studied in the bush instead of on the beach. See more »
When John Groberg is talking to his girlfriend, Jean, about the moon, he says that the light traveled 93 million miles to reach her, but that is actually the distance from the Sun. Of course, the light originated from the Sun not the moon, so he is correct. See more »
It is enough I remember you offered it to me.
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Normally LDS subject films like The Other Side Of Heaven are usually produced in Salt Lake City by Mormons. But this film, the true life adventure of a missionary in the South Pacific island kingdom of Tonga was done by the Disney Studios. That being said it is perfectly within the Disney parameters of family entertainment.
John Groberg as played here by Christopher Gorham is a kid who likes his faith with a little rock and roll in the Eisenhower Fifties. He plays a mean trumpet and is awaiting his mission assignment. It turns out to be the exotic south seas certainly with enough temptation that few can withstand. Still it's something if not required, expected of him to do his two year bit before he marries Anne Hathaway.
Stories about Mormon Missionaries and I've reviewed a few of them now have one common thread, it's the culture shock. No matter whether it's Tonga, Tenafly or Buffalo these kids leave a cocoon like existence in their Mormon communities to go out into the big world to do their thing. That's what films like God's Army, The Best Two Years and this film have in common.
The Pacific Islands have always held special interest for the LDS church. They have charge of the Polynesian Cultural Center in Honolulu and I give the church credit for helping to preserve the Polynesian Culture of several peoples.
Young Gorham doesn't preach and baptize, he makes real contributions to the daily lives of this remote region. With disease and tidal waves to battle among other things, the Magic Kingdom did a great job with the special effects in The Other Side Of Heaven.
Anne Hathaway does appear in the film, but it's her voice in the letters they exchange that is her real contribution. In fact it was touching to see these two young people, deeply in love speaking their letters in voice over. In this age of electronic mail, a film like this showing the romance and poetry between Gorham and Hathaway is a depiction of a sadly bygone age.
Disney Studios recognized that this film would have a wider appeal than just among Mormons and it does. It's a fine family film, but LDS audiences will appreciate it most of all.
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