Faith-based movies have been known to be difficult to watch,
even for those of us who are professed believers and active
difficult to describe the problem precisely, but a kind of
cheesiness, a holier-than-thou, a posturing for the cameras that
feels forced, staged, self-conscious, overly pious, not real.
And therefore not very appealing, even though in theory, it
ought to be inspiring, it's too sticky-sweet.
Treacly. Contrived sentimentality.
“Miracles From Heaven” is not completely devoid of this
off-putting dynamic, but it's so well-made that the characters are
winsome, and feel authentic, perhaps because it's based on a true
The Bream family----Mom, Dad, and three sisters—live in
Burleson, Texas, outside of Ft. Worth.
He's a veterinarian who has just expanded his practice to
include large farm animals as well as household pets.
So Mom, Christy (Jennifer Garner) is worried about mortgaging
their house to the hilt to pay for the business expansion.
They live out in the country, in an old farmhouse, with
enough land around them that they can't see any neighbor's houses.
There's an old cottonwood tree out front that the girls love
to climb, and they have five dogs.
They all go to church together on Sundays, at a place where
the minister, Pastor Scott (John Carroll Lynch), is engaging,
succint, humorous, and insightful. (Pulpit committees will be
The trouble starts when the middle daughter, Anna (Kylie
Rogers), gets sick. She
just can't seem to quit throwing up.
It's not a virus, it's not acid reflex, it's not a bug going
around, and it's not gluten or lactose intolerance.
(There's a cute scene where the whole family decides to
together that if Anna can't have pizza, they won't, either.)
The doctors all seem puzzled by this, until finally they find
the awful diagnosis: a
rare motility disorder where her intestines simply don't process the
food the stomach sends. Nobody
seems to know how to treat it. The
doctors say there's one specialist in Boston, a Dr. Nurko, who might
help them. Christy makes it her personal mission to get in to see
him, and won't be deterred by being told his waiting list is months
long. She flies up there
with Anna, anyway, and camps out in the waiting room until they
finally have pity on her and agree to see her daughter.
Dr. Nurko (Eugenio Derbez) turns out to be one of those
wonderful pediatricians with a great sense of humor who's always
clowning around with his patients, but he's also clear with Christy
that there's not much they can do.
Some drugs might help slow the digestive process, but Anna
will still be in pain, and still not cured.
Perhaps it's time to just go home.
She needs the rest of her family.
When they finally arrive back in Burleson, Christy is busy on
the phone trying to arrange for a child psychologist to handle the
depression that Dr. Nurko said would be inevitable for Anna.
The girls go outside to climb up their favorite hollowed-out
cottonwood tree, and somehow Anna falls through the inside, all the
way to the ground, where she's unresponsive.
What happens next is the “miracle” part.
She not only survives this steep plunge, she emerges from it
“cured,” as if the blow to the nervous system has jump-started
the electrical impulses needed to drive her internal motility.
She later reports to her parents having a vision of being in
a beautiful garden, then walking on clouds, then talking to the
bright light about coming back.
The doctors are astounded, as is the whole family, but at the
end, Christy's testimony at church isn't just about Anna's
“miracle cure,” because they all realize that many others'
prayers are not answered in that way, but she talks about the little
miracles of all the kindnesses along the way that people showed to
them, from receptionists to waitresses to airline ticket agents to
congregation says “Hallelujah” and everyone goes home happy, and
we start to think it's too good to be true, and then, during the
credits, we meet the “real” Bream family.
Miracles from Heaven, indeed.