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Out of the depths

Chrissy Metz, Marcel Ruiz, and Josh Lucas in Breakthrough. (Allen Fraser/Fox 2000 Pictures)


Out of the depths

Divine intervention saves one life and changes others in well-acted faith film Breakthrough

“Why do you think God chooses to save some and not others?” It’s an honest question, but not one a Christian middle-school teacher, even if recently widowed, should throw in the face of a boy who miraculously revived after falling into an icy lake and having no pulse for an hour. This candid confrontation is one of many elements that make the new film Breakthrough—dare I say it?—a breakthrough for the faith-film genre.

The true story of 14-year-old John Smith (played by Marcel Ruiz) was widely reported, so his doctor’s summary of the 2015 event (and the film’s plot) won’t spoil much: “Patient died. Mother prayed. Patient came back to life.” What does spoil many Christian films, such as hyperbolic spirituality, Breakthrough avoids. Well, mostly: A crowd sings by candlelight and a too-cool praise band rocks a Sunday morning service. (C’mon! Phil Wickham and Lecrae co-leading worship?) But it’s not just the lack of usual negatives that gives Breakthrough its appeal. In addition, the acting is solid. Chrissy Metz (NBC’s This Is Us) shines in her big-screen debut, giving a genuinely moving performance as John’s mother Joyce.

Allen Fraser/Fox 2000 Pictures

Metz and Ruiz (Allen Fraser/Fox 2000 Pictures)

John’s plunge into the depths brings to the surface several strained relationships. Joyce can’t stand the hip haircut or habiliment of the new pastor (Topher Grace). John, who is adopted, sasses his parents, while school bullies harass him because of his Guatemalan heritage. The specter of brain damage prods some close to John to consider ending extraordinary medical efforts for him. And a first responder, who hears a voice tell him where to find John under the water, begins to reconsider his atheism. To the filmmakers’ credit (for realism), not everyone in the movie experiences a breakthrough in the wake of John’s miracle. (The PG-rated film also contains a few expletives.)

A mother loved tenaciously, a medical team valued one life, and a community prayed fervently, but why did God save John? Spoiler alert: We won’t know until we all experience our breakthrough from death to eternal life.


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  • SR
    Posted: Thu, 04/25/2019 09:58 am

    i completely disagree with this review. This movie was a terrible portayal of the church and christianity. The father was a terrible father figure...a father who couldnt even stand by his wife in the midst of struggles...what a terribile example. The pastor refrences a terrible TV show and portrays it as a completely acceptable show to watch...DURING HIS SERMON. The candle light vigel was cringy and completly unrealistic. This movie was clearly a hollywood embelished film that was more focused on mass appeal than Jesus. God was hardly mentioned at all in this movie. I would strongly recomend not wasting your money to go and watch this movie...yet another christian movie failure.