MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Throughout my life and years in ministry I have been a firm believer in the power of healing prayer in Christ’s name. Someone asked me once about what I prayed for when someone was struggling with aggressive disease. I answered sincerely: “I always pray for healing until it is clear that there will be no more healing.” They asked me how I knew when that time arrived. “You just know”, I said.
I share this personal episode not to elevate my level of expertise in healing prayer (I believe that it is the power of Christ that does the healing, after all) but to invite you to ponder your own perspective on the topic. There is a wide diversity of opinions on the subject of intercessory prayer. As with all things spiritual, often the best conclusion is to admit our limited understanding. We just don’t know.
Often when a faith-based film wants to hammer home the power of prayer, it implies that if a person only had enough faith they would be able to petition God to heal in every situation. But good people inside and outside of the church experience pain and suffering in spite of their sincere prayers, and some outspoken rascals seem to pull through illnesses only to continue their despicable deeds. This movie is willing to include this theological conversation into the mix and acknowledge this eternal question.
Breakthrough tells a true story about several youth who go out on thin ice on a winter’s day and fall into a deep lake. The boys are pulled out by first response rescuers, with the exception of John Smith (Marcel Ruiz) who is submerged for 15 minutes. He is pronounced dead but his mother Joyce (Metz) will not give up. She prays to God and suddenly there is a heartbeat. John is rushed to the hospital and hooked up to equipment that will sustain his comatose body. He is surrounded by an exceptional medical team and a Mama bear of a mother who tells the doctors to do their best and “let God do the rest”. The family has the support of their local church as well as a growing number of prayer warriors linked through social media.
The filmmakers were wise to choose Chrissy Metz from the TV series “This Is Us” to play Joyce, but the script tends to turn her into a bit of a bully inside the hospital. (While it’s true that you need to speak up for those you love, there’s something to be said for cooperation, too.) I appreciated the way in which John struggles with his identity as an adopted child in adolescence and how he is not a particularly likeable person before the accident. Love does not demand amiability. When Pastor John Noble (Grace) arrives at the hospital he is not particularly embraced by Grace, who considers him a hipster wannabe who includes rap music in worship. But since it has been shown that the minister has a relationship with the son, he has a right to show up! And while the power of prayer is lifted up, the dedication of the rescue team and medical workers are not underestimated.
Breakthrough is a film that invites more conversation than contemplation. It’s not great cinema but it is a good discussion starter for families and small groups of all sizes.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Four halos: However modest its theology, this is a heartfelt and sincere film about healing and healing prayer.
One pitchfork: Some bullying.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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