Documentary Review: “Deep in the Heart: A Texas Wildlife Story”

Oh sweet, sweet Matthew McConaughey.

The selection of the beloved Texas native to narrate Deep in the Heart: A Texas Wildlife Story was spot on for the first wildlife documentary solely focused on our great state of Texas.

From the state’s highest peak, across the high plains, into canyons and caves, and down to its wetlands, the natural wonders of Texas and the animals that inhabit them are featured in cool, regal, soothing ways, and Matthew is there every step of the way.

Alright, alright, alright.

Texas wildlife
Credit: National Park Service / J. Jurado

A story of conservation for families to watch together

The film premiered in June in select Texas theaters, and is available to rent or purchase on streaming services Apple TV, Google Play, Prime Video, and VuDu, Deep in the Heart is first and foremost a story of conservation and restoration. There are many calls to action to conserve and protect the vast and varied Texas landscape and the animals that call it home.

One fast-hitting story is of the late 1800s slaughter of the bison population in the Texas panhandle. While it is a comeback story, the horrors of unregulated hunting practices are shown with images more suitable for older children.

The film is rated PG for parental guidance. I recommend that adults preview the movie before watching with younger children to determine if the imagery is suitable, or to note time stamps on the more sensitive material and skip those parts (there are only a few).

In addition to managing sensitive images, this is a documentary where adults should be present to explain what wildlife conservation is and why it’s necessary to protect the land and animals that make Texas unique and special. It’s also a great film to supplement classes about Texas geography and history.

Deep in the Heart is a call to action

While I enjoyed and appreciated the film because I love Texas, it is long at 1 hour 43 minutes, and there are many extended moments of near silence, which beautifully captures the normally unseen scenery and animal interactions, but also is liable to lull a little one (or a tired big one) to sleep.

The music is a majestic backdrop to the diversity of animals and habitats—from elk and desert big horn in Palo Duro Canyon, to the endangered ocelot in the south Texas brush country, to the black bears and mountain lions of Big Bend.

Deep in the Heart is a family-friendly film that not only shows the wonders of Texas but also can be an introduction to conversations about wildlife conservation. The documentary’s credits and website provide information and links to Texas conservation organizations and resources for taking action like volunteering with Texas Parks and Wildlife, creating a monarch butterfly habitat, and calculating conservation savings.

Also on the film’s website are learning resources that include four video clips with lessons for K-12 teachers and students. According to the site, “lessons include directions for the teacher, student documents in English and Spanish, and English and Spanish PowerPoint files. The lessons are aligned with the 2020/2021 revised Science TEKS. Connections to Social Studies TEKS and the Next Generation Science Standards are also made.”

Looking for more family-friendly movies? Here are recommendations according to age.

Chantal Boeckman
Chantal and her husband Eric have lived in Plano for 13 years, and in the DFW area since 2002. Their 11-year-old son Jack is his mom's partner in crime in exploring new places from restaurants to museums, parks, plays and festivals to libraries and churches. She has a 20+ year career working at global companies to help inspire and earn the trust of employees, customers and stakeholders through corporate communications and public relations. Chantal is passionate about the power of communication and its role in creating culture, confidence and connection, and is committed to helping people see themselves as leaders who can make a difference in other people's lives. You can connect with Chantal on Instagram