Someone asked me this morning what I do when I’m in Maine. Well, one thing is go to the movies. I mean, with a $4 matinee, how could you go wrong?
I did just that yesterday, going to see Miracles from Heaven. It was an encore weekend presentation. I wasn’t here when it was aired as a one-day screening to benefit His Light for Haiti shortly after its release. So I was excited to see it this trip.
As with all “faith”-based films, there is a caveat. It preaches to the choir. Skeptics probably won’t change their mind. Believers will be affirmed.
There were a lot of similarities to the 2014 film Heaven Is For Real — the out of body experience, the prayers of emergency personnel, the revelation and depiction of heaven, the “making a difference” scene — but this based on true life events story went a little deeper. In fact, the whole “heaven” revelation seemed secondary to the story. No, that’s not really true. It was more like an addendum to the story. Most of the film dealt with the events leading up it.
In case you don’t know the story, 10 year old Annabel Beam (Kylie Rogers) starts suffering from a rare digestive disorder, pseudo-obstruction motility, and is unable to eat without a feeding tube and medication. Her mother Christy (Jennifer Garner) refuses to accept a series of misdiagnoses and fights to find relief for her dying daughter. The Texas family eventually makes its way to Boston where Annabel is treated by Dr. Nurko (Eugenio Derbez) , a pediatric gastroenterologist who is Anna’s doctor at the Boston Children’s Hospital. She doesn’t appear to be really responding to treatment.
The family — after numerous back and forth visits to Boston — is at home when Annabel where she and her older sister Abbie (Brighton Sharbino) play outside. Abbie suggests they climb the old tree. Annabel agrees after seeing a butterfly, but when the limb 30 feet up starts to break, Abbie tells her to reach for an opening where anther limb had been. Annabel does, and falls down the hollowed tree. She is eventually rescued with just bumps and scratches and a mild concussion. More remarkably, her digestive disorder is healed.
Those gripping scenes of Annabel first getting sick, dealing with the bloat and discomfort and falling down that tree command your attention. But what struck me was the faith of the family … or rather, the disintegration of human faith in light of God’s apparent abandonment and its restoration.
Garner played the part of Christy extremely well. I was mesmerized by how she reacted — a very normal motherly reaction. She starts as a faith-filled woman, a supportive wife and a doting mother to the three girls [the youngest child is Adelynn (Courtney Fansler)]. I liked the bedtime routine she followed, stopping in each of the girls’ rooms, asking them if they said their prayers and asking them if they had one to share. It gave a good insight into the girls’ dreams and hopes.
That faith slowly erodes as Annabel gets sicker and sicker to the point she can longer talk to God herself. She finds it harder and harder to go to church and it comes to a head when two well-meaning but very un-Christian ladies (Rhoda Griffis and Erica McGee ) suggest the illness is God’s response either she or husband Kevin (Martin Henderson) or maybe even Annabel herself have sinned. I could feel Christy’s pain. My heart sank.
The way Kevin and Christy react to the Job-like calamity was an interesting sidebar. Christy really wrestles with her faith. Kevin, despite seeing his world shatter, maintains a stoic faith and quietly trusts everything will work out. It was a digital look at the workings of a healthy marriage and the value of perseverance in the face of impossible odds.
Another aside was in the hospital when Annabel gave her cross to her hospital roommate Haley (Hannah Alligood), a sick cancer patient. Her father (Wayne Pere) tells Christy in the hospital he would appreciate it if her daughter did not fill Haley’s head with fantasies, but returns at the end to tell a full, media-laden congregation how that cross allowed his daughter to face her death without fear. It’s the little things we do that often make a big difference.
The restoration, of course, comes in Annabel’s healing. She tells her parents about her heaven experience and her “conversation” with God who wants to send her back. Annabel says she didn’t want to come back in pain and her God — without a word — complies. The faith of a child!
It is then Christy realizes the miracle wasn’t Annabel’s remission. It was the little, everyday miracles along the journey … the local doctor who cares for Annabelle above and beyond the call of duty (Eugenio Derbez) … family friend Emmy (Kelly Collins Lintz) …the receptionist (Suehyla El-Attar) at Boston Children’s Hospital who made an appointment with Dr. Nurko happen … the kind stranger (Queen Latifah) who steps in to befriend them … the pastoral care at their church, Reverend Scott (John Carroll Lynch) … the airline attendant (J.M. Longoria) who turns off his computer screen and writes a hand ticket when the Beam’s credit cards were declined.
It’s all so true. Often we become blinded by the big picture and miss the individual pieces. God shows His hand all along our life’s journey. We just have to look for it.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: What if we turned off the amplifiers, microphones and smoke machines and just listened for God’s still, small voice.