Janice Johnston (Cybill Shepherd) is a single mother raising her sons Tony (Jer Adrianne Lelliott) and Ray (Will Rothhaar) in a small town in Texas. Tony is blind and autistic, but when he starts playing a piano with no lessons, Janice realizes he's a savant. Years later, Janice moves to Boston with the boys, now played by Chris Demetral and Blake Heron, so Tony can attend the Perkins School for the Blind and receive the education he needs to become a successful pianist.
Journey of the Heart contains examples of:
- Air Guitar: At the bar, Janice's boss plays air guitar to the country music on the jukebox. Tony plays air piano on the table.
- As Himself: Tony DeBlois appears as himself as the adult Tony at the very end of the movie.
- Blind Musician: Lampshaded by Ray: "How come piano players don't ever have eyes?"
- Disappeared Dad: Tony and Ray's dad walked out before Ray was born because he didn't want to raise a disabled kid, and he was afraid Ray would turn out like Tony.
- First Kiss: Tony kisses his piano partner, Julia (Cassidy Rae). Janice is upset partly because she thinks Julia will be a distraction from his music, and partly because she doesn't like the reminder that Tony is growing up.
- Flowers of Romance: Tony picks a flower from a planter and gives it to Julia. She tells him that she'll dry it and keep it in her diary.
- Happy Rain: As a child, Tony loves the rain and will run outside and take his clothes off if he isn't stopped. The other kids spray water at him to trick him into undressing, causing him to get arrested.
- Idiot Savant: Tony can't tie his shoes, tell up from down, or understand abstract concepts, but he can easily play complicated pieces after hearing them once.
- Moving Angst: Ray doesn't want to move to Boston because Texas is his home. He begs Janice to let him stay with a friend, but she refuses. The situation is not helped by the sight of their tiny apartment in Boston, which costs more than twice as much as their house did in Texas.
- Premature Birth Drama: Tony was born so premature that he weighed less than two pounds. In the ICU, he was supplied with large amounts of oxygen, which saved his life but also caused his retinas to detach.
- Stage Mom: Downplayed. Tony really does want to be a concert pianist, but Janice pressures him to spend all his time practicing and discourages him from having any kind of social life or other interests that would act as a distraction.
- Struggling Single Mother: Janice works two jobs, as a waitress at a bar and as a maid at a mansion, and often has to take her sons to work with her.
- Tantrum Throwing: Tony throws a bunch of utensils across the kitchen because he thinks he's ugly, and that's why Julia doesn't like him.
- Teacher/Parent Romance: Janice falls in love with Tony's music teacher, Thomas DeBlois. By the end of the movie, they're engaged, and the boys take on his last name.
- Tears of Joy: Shortly before the move, Tony stops playing piano because it's his "fault" that they have to move to Boston, and Ray is mad at him. When he finally starts playing again, Janice cries.