In 1967, in the small town of Fireside, James Cranbourne went off to war in Vietnam. His wife, Marguerite, fled to New York City, chasing her dreams of becoming a singer and leaving the small-town life behind.
But that’s not all she left.
Her two elementary-aged girls, Evangeline and Juliet, known to most as “Rabbit” and “Squirrel,” couldn’t come along. They’d be too much to handle. A distraction. So, Marguerite left them with their loving grandparents, Walt and Ruby, promising she’d soon return.
But Marguerite never made good on her word. Instead, Walt and Ruby opened their arms to their two granddaughters and vowed to raise them well. Over time, the girls learned all about the most important lessons in life while living in a home filled with joy.
And while Evangeline and Juliet thrived for some time, the pain of abandonment eventually crept in. And as days turned to years, it became obvious that it would take more than good memories and love to heal deep wounds.
James, Juliet and Evangeline’s father, writes to them as often as he can and constantly reassures his girls that they are loved and in the best hands with their grandparents. Before he leaves for Vietnam, he does his best to help calm their fears.
Walt and Ruby intentionally teach Evangeline and Juliette about making right choices, as well as emphasizing the values of respect, kindness and responsibility. The two grandparents take the girls in and lovingly raise them as their own children. They provide a safe home for the girls, and they also model what a healthy, vibrant marriage looks like.
Evangeline protects Juliet when people try to hurt her. Evangeline and Juliet both learn to forgive their mother for abandoning them. Juliet forgives Evangeline and Walt for keeping secrets from her. Evangeline thinks on hard questions such as, “What’s the course of my life?” and, “What’s the most important thing?”
Ruby’s mother-in-law, Itasca, is rude to Ruby and constantly tells her how her homemaking skills are inferior to her own. However, while Ruby gets frustrated, she is always kind and gracious to her mother-in-law. Ruby also makes sure that Evangeline and Juliet are kind and respectful as well, no matter the circumstance. Additionally, she teaches the girls the importance of sacrificing their time for the benefit of others.
Before leaving for Vietnam, James tells his daughters that they are to look for the North Star when they’re lonely or need direction, as it is like “God’s lamppost.” This instruction becomes something of a guiding directive for the girls as they grow up and figure out the details of their lives.
Someone tells the girls that “forgiveness and God’s house go hand-in-hand.” Evangeline comments that someone who’s died is probably playing checkers with “St. Peter” in heaven.
Walt tells his granddaughters to get ready for church on Sunday morning. Walt, Ruby and the girls often pray together and talk about what they’re thankful for. Walt and Ruby also teach Evangeline and Juliette about God and about the importance of forgiveness and kindness.
[Spoiler Warning] When Walt finds out that his son has been killed in Vietnam, he gets extremely angry and shouts at God, asking “Why?” as he throws tools around his garage. He and Ruby explain to the girls that their father is in heaven and will meet other loved ones there. When they’re older, Walt tells them the only thing Ruby would want from heaven is for the two of them to get along.
Evangeline and Juliet think that their grandfather, Walt, is having an affair with an attractive younger woman whom they refer to as a “Siren; a dangerous, enchanting woman.” They think this because they spy on the woman and catch her kissing someone who looks a lot like Walt. In the end, they find out that they were wrong.
Ruby and Walt kiss, flirt and dance. A young woman wears a few short skirts and dresses. Evangeline and Juliet’s mother wears a silk nightgown in one scene and a revealing dress in another; it’s somewhat evident she isn’t wearing a bra under her dress in one of these scenes.
Ruby tells her granddaughters that she will “tan their hides” for lying. Ruby falls down and hits her head. An elderly woman dies peacefully in her bed. We hear of other deaths of elderly loved ones.
A bully pushes and kicks Juliet, and a young boy comes to her rescue. The two get into a “fight” and wrestle each other. A man dies while fighting in Vietnam. We hear bullets flying and see the man lying on a cot, wounded.
We hear one use of “h—.”
In a moment of frustration with her mother-in-law, Ruby exclaims, “That woman is going to drive me to drink.”
Marguerite, Evangeline and Juliet’s mother, leaves the girls with their grandparents and barely says goodbye. She never tells them when she will return from chasing her singing career in New York City, but they eventually learn that she never meant to return.
As a result, both girls wrestle with the aftermath of their mother’s abandonment, often asking “why” and wondering what they could have done to make their mom stay with them.
Evangeline and Juliet believe that a woman is a “communist spy” (without knowing what that even means), so they spy on her and “toilet paper” her house. A young boy rudely calls Juliet an “orphan.” A girl vomits.
When We Last Spoke focuses on family, love and the power of forgiveness.
Unlike some unrated flicks that make you question whether there might be a lot of content, there isn’t much here to shy away from. The heart of the film is a sweet one that examines family dynamics, honor and respect as well as the painful difficulties and disappointments we face in life.
One mild profanity is used, and a bit of sexual innuendo creeps in. But overall, this heartwarming, Hallmark-esque tale of love and faithfulness, loss and forgiveness is one most families can enjoy.
When We Last Spoke is a Fathom Events release that will be screened at select theaters October 27-31.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).