Thursday, February 6, 2020

Movie with Abe: Breakthrough

Directed by Roxann Dawson
Released April 17, 2019

A film’s title can have significant meaning, and can also serve to reveal where its story is ultimately headed. Some cinematic experiences, especially those based on true events, aren’t reliant on suspense and plot twists to deliver satisfaction, but instead on the power of what’s portrayed to speak for itself and be fulfilling in its own right. Going into a movie with a sense of what you’re going to get out of it can be both appealing and irritating, since expectations being met exactly may end up being lackluster and all too predictable.

Fourteen-year-old John Smith (Marcel Ruiz) is playing with his friends on a frozen lake when he falls through the ice. His two friends emerge quickly, but it takes first responders considerably longer to find him and bring him up. A lack of pulse compels Dr. Sutterer (Sam Trammell) to call his time of death, but the arrival of his willful adoptive mother, Joyce (Chrissy Metz), produces a response in him. Joyce dedicates every moment to being there for John and maintaining a positive attitude, leaning on her husband Brian (Josh Lucas) and her new pastor, Jason (Topher Grace), who she dislikes immensely until he shows up and prays with her for a miraculous recovery.

The title here refers both to John’s fall and his incredible journey back to life, which is dramatized in this heavily Christian production. Joyce is first seen arguing with Jason about who reserved the church space she is using for a meeting, and the two are highly competitive about their approach to faith. Yet there’s never a question of not believing, just simply a clash on how to do it. When Jason remains by her side and insistent that her hope should be maintained, while doctors and friends express doubts about John’s condition, they become bonded together, both espousing an extreme devotion to prayer that they believe has the power to save this boy who should by all accounts be dead.

Ruiz, in his film debut, is unconscious for most of the film, and as a result the spotlight is much more on Metz. Best known for “This Is Us,” Metz delivers an extremely hokey performance here with a regrettable accent, and she’d be much better remembered for her powerful rendition of the Oscar-nominated song “I’m Standing with You,” which plays over the credits and serves as the only reason that this reviewer (and other ardent Oscar fans) saw this film. Grace is capable as always, properly representative of the charismatic nature of many religious figures. This film showcases a formidable survival, but does so in the most obvious and predictable way possible, unnecessarily adapted into this religion-centric production.


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