The Other Side of Heaven

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

The Other Side of Heaven is a 2002 movie based on the book by Mormon leader John H. Groberg about his experience as a missionary in the Polynesian nation of Tonga in the 1950s.

As a boy who grew up in the potato fields of Idaho, John (Christopher Gorham) never expected to travel to such a foreign locale and teach them about his faith. Just getting through customs was an adventure in itself, and then he hits the Culture Clash and struggling to learn their language. He learns to sleep on the floor; he has a Tongan missionary partner, Feki, guide him through the quirks of the people; he deals with typhoons and even being shipwrecked at one point. But through all of that, Tonga became his home and the people there became his family.

Much of the story is framed through the letters to his sweetheart back home, Jean (Anne Hathaway).

Tropes used in The Other Side of Heaven include:
  • Call Back: Feki brings up the Mormon history story of early church leaders Brigham Young and Heber Kimball shouting, "Hurrah for Israel," to their families when they headed off on a mission to England. When Feki was released from his mission, he shouted the same thing to John when departing by boat.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: When dealing with a famine after a typhoon, the local priest who fought against John's presence on the island from the beginning gave him an orange and they made their peace with each other in Christian charity.
  • Training from Hell: John was tired of messing up the language and spent several days on a sand dune reading the Bible in English and Tongan until he was relatively fluent.
  • Translation Convention: After John learns the language, the rest of the movie is in English
  • Where Are They Now? Epilogue