I have never liked any of the Christian faith movies that have come out over the years. The main reason was that it always felt as if the characters’ faith was the only thing that mattered and that these characters were pushing their faith with a hammer. No subtlety at all. I have never wanted to downgrade anyone beliefs but many of these faith movies, as movies, are nearly unwatchable.
Today, for Mother’s Day, I took my mom to Breakthrough, a film that I had avoided since it was released in April for that very reason I mentioned before. However, I figured mom would like it so I took her to it.
I will say that it was probably the best Christian faith movie I have seen because it allowed its characters to be real characters who just happen to have faith in God and not one-dimensional people spouting their personal beliefs.
This movie is based on the true story of John Smith (Marcel Ruiz), a young teen who fell through an icy Missouri lake in 2015 and spent 15 minutes under water before being pulled out by search and rescuer Tommy Shine (Mike Colter).
John was rushed to the hospital and was near death, but his mother Joyce (Chrissy Metz) was a powerhouse force of nature and insisted that her son would recover. Even at a point where it appeared that the doctors and nurses had given up finding a pulse, Joyce refused to let go.
Here is the strength of the film. During his hospital stay, characters were allowed to doubt, question and be angry. Even Joyce was shown to be out of control. Those people who expressed doubt were never demonized by the movie and, in fact, the film went out of its way to show that Joyce’s angry dismissals of these people’s thoughts were unlike her and were inappropriate. That surprised me.
Even the film’s pastor, Jason (Topher Grace) was allowed to speak to John’s father (Josh Lucas) in a real way. It is not just “pray and all will be okay, trust in God” etc etc. Pastor Jason, in that conversation, told John’s father that he had doubts about John’s survival, but anything was possible. This felt like a real conversation that would be held with real people.
And I especially loved the ending when, SPOILERS- I guess, John recovered, and there was some resentment directed toward him, wondering why he was saved while others were not. That was even more interesting of an approach to me, and I would have liked for the movie to expand upon that more than it did. Just the inclusion of those moments was a step in the right direction though.
Mike Colter’s character even expressed that he did not believe in God, and he was allowed to be a real person who showed confusion over the fact that he believed he heard someone direct him to where John was in the water. This internal conflict was never officially resolved, just like it most likely would not be in real life.
Now, there are plenty of problems with the film as well. I mean, some of the acting was average at best, the story became extremely melodramatic several times (don’t get me started on the giant sing-a-long pray session outside John’s hospital window) and there were times where the movie felt too movie-of-the-week-like. Still, the main performances were strong and just the fact that these characters were written like real people of faith and not just propaganda for Christian faith is a definite positive.
Plus, my mom loved it. So there is that.