Miracles from Heaven
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“Miracles From Heaven” is based on the incredible true story of the Beam family. When Christy (Jennifer Garner) discovers her 10-year-old daughter Anna (Kylie Rogers) has a rare, incurable disease, she becomes a ferocious advocate for her daughter’s healing as she searches for a solution. After Anna has a freak accident, an extraordinary miracle unfolds in the wake of her dramatic rescue that leaves medical specialists mystified, her family restored, and their community inspired.
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Well, the plot was predictable. I knew the story. But to my surprise, this movie was not about the miracle of the little girl’s healing. While for sure that is the fulcrum around which everything else in the film pivots, her miracle is merely the driving factor for the little ‘coincidences’—the true, everyday miracles in life—whose explanations are skillfully restrained until the end of the film.
You don’t just watch Miracles from Heaven. You feel it. Because of the excellent script and casting, you cringe and feel the pain this child endures in sometimes graphic scenes. You feel the agony of hopelessness which a helpless mother endures when God is silent, and her critics and skeptics--aren’t. You feel the forgiveness from a heart shattered by insult--and the empathy--of what must be the world’s most compassionate physician. But most of all, you feel the subtle power of miracles in the odd, and often inexplicable, ‘little things’ which happen ‘along the way’ in the greatest of crises, and lead to you know not where.
It’s those little miracles which lift this film—from mere inspiration—to reminding us that every thread of life is woven into a much bigger whole which we seldom ever see, and even more seldom—appreciate. The film teaches us through heartache and excruciating pain that the small things, even the smallest of things—an unmade appointment, a computer ‘glitch’, a chance encounter, a fortuitous roommate, a child's necklace--are woven together for good in the plan of a sovereign God (Romans 8:28).
Miracles from Heaven is no ‘preachy’ film, as I had feared. It is not a Catholic diatribe on supernaturalism. It is not a Pentecostal sermon on ‘just have enough faith’. In fact, it’s just the opposite. It is the you and me in the 'raw' of doubt, frustration, and utter hopelessness. Christians are as much the villains in this film (“there must be sin in the child’s life”) as persistence, fortitude, and faith, are the heroes, and this movie will pick you up and slam you down emotionally, often when you least expect it. Like all wonderful stories, it gets better as it progresses, and near the end--just when you are sure the last emtional reaction has been wrenched from you--it blindsides you one last time. Though this movie's message of faith may not be everyone's cup of tea ('...we just get there when we get there'), inspirational--it certainly is.
There was neither a weak performance in the film, nor a dry eye in the theater as I left. Both Jennifer and the little girl give sterling performances, as does Queen Latifah. Four things I took from Miracles from Heaven were, first, that we need to search less for the ‘miracles’, and concentrate more on doing what we can--when and where we are able--everyday of our lives. In this, we become miracles, instead of mere chasers of them. Secondly, when life seems to give you no direction—use your instincts and go somewhere; do something. Most often God works better in turning us, as opposed to pushing us to get up off the floor. Thirdly, remember--to someone hurting--what is the mundane to us can be a true miracle. What may seem trivial can be a life-changer. Finally, having done these things, we are left to trust an all-wise God who does not explain to us--any more than he explained to Job--why bad things happen to good people. Highly recommended; adults and kids.
The whole story is basically told in the trailer, but there is more to it than a tree accident causing Christy Beam’s little girl to be healed from her intestinal disease. There are a lot of relatable elements in the movie such as being told by other churchgoers that God must be punishing you for something you did wrong, having to make hard choices to pay for an uncertain, ongoing medical treatment, going through huge hassles and God delaying on delivering you until you’ve basically worn yourself out, and striking up friendships that help you with each step of the process. I like that the movie includes a really funny appearance by Queen Latifah, because it’s otherwise a pretty intense story that you could call a tearjerker. The medical doctor at Boston Children’s Hospital who attempts to treat Christy Beam’s daughter is played by Eugenio Derbez with a Patch Adams level of silliness and quirkiness and is one of the most memorable characters I’ve seen in a recent movie.
I appreciate that it takes the theme beyond just saying this miracle proves that God and out-of-body visions of heaven are real. Instead, there’s a conversation where the daughter who has been healed tells her mother Christy (Jennifer Garner) that it’s okay if not everyone believes her story, because people get toward faith at different paces. Additionally, there is some emphasis on seeing beauty in the experiences around you even if you can’t be certain of the future, and this is because of God demonstrating through rare miracles that He is still there. It comes full circle, from debating about whether God will do a miracle and whether other people will believe it happened, to saying it’s okay if not everyone believes and that God does it as an extra gift to remind us there’s more to life than what we currently see.
I like how well-rounded all the artistic aspects are in the movie also. It’s got a clearly understandable narrative and a bit of variety with indoor and outdoor locations and some location filming in Boston, and the scenes showing their daily family life never feel pointless within the story even though they’re not all equally critical to it. The movie feels more realistic than cinematic at times, and making it feel like it’s truly happening is very hard to do in a movie. No movie feels 100% realistic, but this one certainly has nailed the authentic family relationships. There’s a scene where they each individually decide to give up pizza so their sister with the intestinal issue won’t feel sad about missing out on the cheese the others would get to eat. It’s scenes like those which are played out in such an authentic way, reminding me of the Sarah, Plain and Tall movies, that I could really invest myself in the movie.
A bonus is that the real Beam family makes an appearance on the end credits. There was applause after it ended in the theater, too.