Picture of Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

“Breakthrough” Tugs Heartstrings with Strong Performances

Easter weekend provides audiences with a new faith-based film from 20th Century Fox and director Roxann Dawson. Based on the 2017 biography The Impossible: The Miraculous Story of a Mother’s Faith and Her Child’s Resurrection by Joyce Smith, Breakthrough is a predictable, yet heartwarming, film.

John Smith (Marcel Ruiz) is a typical fourteen- year-old living his best life in Missouri with his adoptive parents Joyce Smith (Chrissy Metz) and Brian Smith (Josh Lucas). Joyce and Brian adopted John during a missionary mission in Guatemala when he was nine months. While John generally loves his parents, he is going through a self-discovery phase with his growing pains. Not only is John talking back to his parents, he’s also rebelling against his teachers at his Christian high school. Joyce, meanwhile, is having issues with the town’s new pastor Jason (Topher Grace), whose modernized laid-back style of preaching conflicts with Joyce’s preferences for a conservative style. Everything changes when John falls into a frozen lake while horsing around with his friends. Tommy Shine (Mike Colter) rescues John after hearing a voice, and John is taken to a local hospital where he passes away.

Heartbroken, Joyce calls out to God. John’s pulse returns, which results in John’s transfer to a better hospital where Dr. Garrett (Dennis Haysbert), a specialist in cases like John’s, resides. While initially hesitant about John’s recovery, Dr. Garrett decides to treat John due to Joyce’s determination her son will recover from his fall-induced injuries.

In her first big screen lead Chrissy Metz is a wonder as Joyce Smith. Walking into Breakthrough, I was under the impression that Metz would repeat her This Is Us character. However, I was wrong; and Metz shows range. Marcel Ruiz, whose previous work I wasn’t familiar with, is also quite good as John. I was able to relate with his identity issues and felt compassion for him.

Topher Grace provides solid acting as Pastor Jason and Josh Lucas is serviceable as Brian. There are moments when Brian speaks about not wanting to see John in a coma that reminded me of when I lost my grandfather. Sometimes as men, it’s an emotional struggle to see someone who is physically strong in a weak position. Lucas conveys that agony quite well. Dennis Haysbert is also good as Dr. Garrett. I found Mike Colter’s Tommy Shine underwritten.

Faith-based films are the one genre that I’m usually not overly critical of because I know they generally want to provide a message and not win awards. While I don’t attend church every Sunday, I don’t find Christian themed entertainment to be overly preachy or boring. What I enjoyed most about Breakthrough is the approach the film took. Grant Nieporte’s script doesn’t attempt to force religion down our throats. Instead, we see a family with faith who experiences a miracle.

Because Breakthrough is a faith-based film and true story, we know how it’s going to end. However, with its strong cast, Breakthrough is sure to warm your heart.

Final Grade B+

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