Published On: Sun, Apr 21st, 2019

‘Breakthrough’ Review: Emotional biopic of Joyce Smith’s faith, John Smith miraculous healing

Attention Christians: Grab you tissues and head to theaters this Easter for another powerful and emotional faith-based film, Breakthrough.

Like Heaven is For Real or 90 Minutes in Heaven, Breakthrough centers around the miraculous recovery of a teen boy in middle school, John Smith (Marcel Ruiz), who fell through the ice on Lake Sainte Louise while playing with friends. John was underwater for 15 minutes and without a pulse for 45 minutes before making a complete recovery within a few weeks. Based on the book by his mother, Joyce, “The Impossible,” the film centers mostly around Joyce’s journey in faith before her son’s resurrection.

Joyce and her husband, Brian (Josh Lucas), adopted John as a baby from Guatemala and the boy is excelling at basketball, but struggling with his identity. Like most teen boys, they try to isolate themselves from their parents, seems out the cute girl and battle the pecking order at school.

Chrissy Metz plays Joyce, a traditional Christian, frustrated by her church’s new pastor (Topher Grace), who is bringing his California inspired changes to her church, upsetting routines and her Bible study.

Tragedy strikes, shattering Joyce’s world and she breaks down over her son, pleading with God, moaning and yelling out before the first miracle: John gets a pulse. At first, world-famous Dr. Garrett (Dennis Haysbert) offers little to no hope as the film follows Joyce’s boldness and faith journey, which she uses to focus the caregivers and prayer warriors.

Breakthrough may seem to offer just another miraculous survivor story, relying on a great performance from Metz, but the film offers up several interesting topics surrounding tragedy – all interesting fodder for discussion.

For example, Metz takes Joyce through a journey from disconnected mom and frustrated parishioner to a woman weeping and crying out without shame. Even her prayer over surrender isn’t a topic well covered for Christians still struggling with their faith despite years of service in the church.

Mike Colter (Luke Cage) plays Tommy Shire, the heroic firefighter who finds John underwater, led by a voice (a fact disputed by Shine in real life), to challenge his world views. Audiences have witnessed the awkward insertion of salvation moments or a sharing of the gospel in other Christian films, used to justify their film’s purpose, but Tommy is left on his journey, reluctant, yet leaning towards a walk closer to God.

Joyce’s husband Brian can’t even be in the room following the tragedy and the pair face off to deal with another real world struggle that families sometimes face. Parents don’t always deal with the trauma well and Christian fathers may be particularly vulnerable to this contradiction due to the stereotypes and expectations of their role patriarch. Lucas does a fine job as John’s battle goes on, even calling out Joyce for “losing it” on those in the hospital.

Pastor Jason, yes I used his name and you will get the reference after seeing the film, becomes an interesting foil for Joyce’s journey, but plays out the role of shepherd well. There are a ton of nuances and subtle things which make this VERY LIFE LIKE: staying overnight, getting coffee, just being there, the lone curse word in the film, his attire and his haircut.

Then there is John. This is possibly the best story in the film in that it’s what ALL of the non-Christians, and many Christians are asking: why you? Why would God save John and not a woman battling cancer or a family man working hard everyday. The answer is accurately played out: we don’t know.

The first half of the film are pretty subpar, just setting up plots and relationships, hindered by a ton of craft element problems. This is Metz’s film and director Roxann Dawson does well to just let the camera capture as much of that as possible. The power and appeal of Breakthrough is in those nuances, those little moments of real life we can all relate too.

It’s definitely the second best resurrection story you’ll hear about this Easter.

Breakthrough earns 3 stars out of 5 stars

Critics hate on Breakthrough in part due to that first act and the creative liberties they don’t agree with. For example, Joyce goes unhinged on some doctors about the tone in John’s room, dismissing his survival odds, after she overhears them from the bathroom. Now, the film only shows a few caregivers and hardly paints ALL doctors with as insensitive or incompetent, but taking charge of the health care for a patient is a struggle for families during a crisis and I felt was a fair depiction of Joyce’s journey and NOT impugning all physicians.


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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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