[Screen It]


(2019) (Chrissy Metz, Topher Grace) (PG)

Read Our Full Content Movie Review for Parents

Drama: A mother's prayers bring her 14-year-old son back to life after he plunges into an icy lake and has no heartbeat for nearly 45 minutes.
John Smith (MARCEL RUIZ) is a 14-year-old kid growing up in St. Charles, Missouri with his parents, Joyce (CHRISSY METZ) and Brian (JOSH LUCAS). Like many a teenager, he's occasionally aloof to them and defiant of his teachers and even his basketball coach, some of which likely stems from him being adopted and embarrassed about his perceived stigma of that.

But all of that changes when he and two friends are out playing on a frozen lake when the ice gives way and they all plunge into the freezing water. Responding emergency personnel manage to get the two other boys, but it takes a while before fireman Tommy Shine (MIKE COLTER) and his partner find John and pull his unresponsive body from beneath the surface. Rushed to the ER, Dr. Sutterer (SAM TRAMMELL) and his staff try to revive the teen, but eventually realize he's been without a heartbeat for too long and declare him dead. Joyce isn't about to give up, however, and prays to God to save her boy and just then the monitors pick up a heartbeat.

John is then transferred to a children's hospital where world-renowned specialist Dr. Garrett (DENNIS HAYSBERT) gives his parents the bad news that the teen isn't likely going to survive the night and if he does, he'll likely have suffered irreversible brain and other organ damage. Undeterred, Joyce keeps the faith, although she continues to clash with her church's relatively new leader, Pastor Jason Noble (TOPHER GRACE), who she hasn't liked from the get-go.

As the hours pass by, and with Brian unable to see his son that way and not seeing any possible good outcome, it's up to Joyce, Jason, and the community to keep the faith and hope for a miracle.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
Okay, I just have to come out and say it: I'm not sure I believe in prayers and resultant miracles. After all, if they did work, why don't they do so all of the time? Clearly, thousands of people or more die each and every day despite them, their loved ones, friends, religious officials, and even complete strangers praying for them to overcome whatever ultimately is the cause of their demise.

And for me, that's particularly true when the terminally afflicted are children. Why would God allow that to happen, even when their parents, relatives and, of course, religious leaders are devout in their beliefs and are praying for a miracle?

The answer is always that God works in mysterious ways and that's all part of some master plan. Perhaps, but that sounds more like an old testament God full of fire and brimstone who's punishing the afflicted or possibly their parents or other family members for some current or past sin.

Yes, that has been and probably forever will be questioned and debated, but I bring up that "why him and not my loved one" question as it directly relates to but is only briefly touched on in "Breakthrough." It's the latest faith-based drama to be released by a major Hollywood studio (Disney by way of Fox through their recent acquisition of that studio).

Based on the true-life event in which 14-year-old John Smith plunged into frozen Lake Saint Louis with two friends, was the last pulled out (after 15 minutes underwater), and didn't respond to nearly 45 minutes of CPR and related efforts, it's the tale of unwavering faith -- and yes, prayers and miracles -- in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

In the nearly two-hour long film, John is played by Marcel Ruiz as a boy who, in typical teenager fashion, has developed an attitude toward most every adult or authority figure in his life. While his dad (Josh Lucas) thinks that's just a phase where their kid is simply trying to elicit a reaction, his mom (Chrissy Metz) is more concerned, disappointed and, to be frank, a bit peeved at the kid. But that latter quality seems to be a running behavior on her part, what with her having no love lost for her church's new pastor (Topher Grace) who's from California and even has a rapper perform a Christian song during their church service, much to her eye-rolling disdain.

Her view of that pastor doesn't even change when her boy plunges into that lake with his friends, is kicked in the face, and goes under for the count. It's a fairly intense sequence as directed by Roxann Dawson (who works from a script by Grant Nieporte) that plays on my soft spot of people coming to the aid of others in need. In this case, among those first responders is a firefighter (Mike Colter) who hears someone tell him to go back to a spot in the water to look for the submerged boy only to find him where he hadn't been moments earlier.

That's followed by resuscitation efforts there and in the hospital where the ER doctor on call (Sam Trammell) tries his best to save the boy, but finally throws in the towel. But Joyce won't and loudly prays to God and the Holy Spirit to breathe life back into her boy.

And just like that, a heartbeat is heard and seen on the monitors and he's airlifted to a children's hospital for better care under the guidance of a world-renowned specialist (Dennis Haysbert) in such matters. That doctor doesn't paint an encouraging picture, but the mother bear mom doesn't lose her faith or open displeasure toward anyone with nary a negative comment about her boy's chances.

I don't know how closely that adheres to the way the real mother behaved, but it's a risky gambit on the part of the filmmakers as it makes Joyce not that likable, even in light of what's occurred and what she's going through. Of course, she eventually has her own version of a come to God moment and changes her attitude toward those trying to help her son or are there just to provide moral and religious support.

And beyond one dire prognosis after another, the mom's ongoing feud with the pastor, and some tension briefly present due to her husband being unable to be in their son's room (and seeing him that way), there's not a great deal of storytelling drama to keep this flick afloat. And those pesky questions of why prayers worked for him and not others is only briefly addressed late in the third act and never answered.

But what's present aplenty is a never-ending progression of support from the pastor (Grace is really good in the part), the doctors and related staff and the community at large. As previously stated, I'm a sucker for that kind of behavior and all involved milk that without ever feeling too manipulative or melodramatic. And there's some decent comic relief now and then to keep things from seeming too dire.

While I'd chalk up the real-life events to the preservative effects of being submerged in cold water along with simple, if long-odds luck leading to everything turning out okay, there's no doubt those who do believe in the power of prayers and miracles will only have their faith further solidified. Nothing spectacular in terms of moviemaking but otherwise done well and hitting the right emotional notes, "Breakthrough" rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed April 6, 2019 / Posted April 17, 2019

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