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Movie Review: Breakthrough

4 years ago written by

4 Stars – Inspiring

The first question both Christians and non-Christians alike ask when someone claims a miracle is: Has it been verified? If it is a healing that is claimed, as happened in “Breakthrough,” then what do the physicians say were the facts? Occurring in 2015 the physicians involved give witness to the fact that there is no other explanation than a miraculous gift of life. John Smith (Marcel Ruiz) the middle school boy who fell through the ice and was underwater for nearly 15 minutes, did not have a pulse for over 45 minutes until his mother Joyce (Chrissy Metz) prayed for the Holy Spirit’s life-giving power. It was at that moment as an answer to prayer, when medical science had no methods to save him, that John’s heart began to beat.

This true story is told by Grant Nieporte collaborating with John’s mother Joyce Smith in writing the screenplay. This partnership brings both the skill of a storyteller as seen in Nieporte’s film “Seven Pounds,” with the eyewitness account and compelling vulnerability of Joyce. Directed by Roxann Dawson, known for her vast experience as a director and actor in television, the story is told in ways that are moving and emotional.

The simple tale can be found in newspaper accounts describing the foolishness of three eighth-grade boys playing on thin ice, even when warned, with all three falling through. However, in the attempt to climb out, John was accidentally kicked and went under. With rescue teams on their way, the timing was against John. They knew it was too long. The ER doctors gave up. It was then that the miracle began.

BREAKTHROUGH - Official PosterThe lessons of this faith-friendly film are many and presented with authentic struggle. Faith and doubt are two sides of one coin and two moments in one heart. The film shows this struggle, both by those who are Christians and believe God answers prayer but have doubts about such a resuscitation, and by non-Christians who do not believe in even the existence of God but are used by God nevertheless. The question that arises when someone is healed of an impossible situation is why? Why John? Why did God not stop the death of my loved one? No one knows the answer this side of the grave, but the attempt to put God and His work in neat little boxes understandable to the human mind is impossible.

In addition to these and other authentic portrayals of faith and doubt are the depictions of pastor Jason Noble (Topher Grace). As the pastor of the First Assemblies Church in St. Peter’s, Missouri, Noble is shown to believe that his responsibility is to walk with the Smith family through this time and leave what happens in God’s hands. In addition, he cares for Joyce in the unresolved issues in her life that this time of tragedy has uncovered. Present and faithful, trusting and believing, humble and hopeful, this pastor is presented as an authentic shepherd of his flock.

The historical facts of both the people and the incident can be found here and verify the validity of the story. Whatever one’s beliefs about God, the truth that there is a power greater than ourselves who sometimes, as in John’s life, changes the laws of biology, is clear. The question is, what are we going to do knowing this? Well, as for us and our houses, we will trust in the Lord.


  1. As this film shows, the interesting thing about miracles is that they often bring up as many questions as they do answers. Have you experienced a miracle and how did it impact your life?
  2. A few weeks following the incident the Friendly Atheist claims it is not a miracle here. Do you find the critique of the physicians’ statements and John’s father compelling? Why or why not?
  3. The struggle that John was going through as an adopted child hit him at puberty, which was most probably around the age his biological mother allowed him to be adopted. Why do you think this is so? Why does each generation tend to struggle with the events of the previous generation?

Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara, and Denny Wayman is the former pastor of the Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara and the former lead superintendent of the Free Methodist Church in Southern California. For more reviews, go to cinemainfocus.comCinema In Focus provides social and spiritual movie commentary.

Images courtesy of 130 Agency

Article Categories:
Culture · L + L April 2019 · Reviews · Web Exclusive

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