Mir­a­cles From Heaven: A must see this Easter

The Star (St. Lucia) - - EASTER -

Bring tis­sues. Be­cause whether you’re the faith­ful tar­get au­di­ence for ‘Mir­a­cles From Heaven’, a non-be­liever or some­one in the mass ag­nos­tic mid­dle ground, you may find it hard to hold back the tears dur­ing var­i­ous points in this real-life tale. And they’ll be earned.

This could be the first faith-based film to truly cross over and find both crit­i­cal ac­claim and a main­stream au­di­ence be­yond just the church-go­ing crowd. And there have been a lot of them lately which have opened with vary­ing de­grees of suc­cess.

‘Mir­a­cles From Heaven’ is based on the 2015 mem­oir of the same name by Christy Beam whose daugh­ter, Anna, sud­denly suf­fered from a rare in­testi­nal disor­der—and then, just as sud­denly, was cured in the cra­zi­est of ways.

Much of what makes the film work is its emo­tion­ally de­mand­ing per­for­mance from the ever-ac­ces­si­ble Jen­nifer Gar­ner. She gets a big arc to work within, re­veal­ing warmth and vul­ner­a­bil­ity, grit and de­ter­mi­na­tion as Christy. She asks all the ex­is­ten­tial ques­tions any of us would in the midst of such a faith-test­ing trauma.

Faith is, of course, the cru­cial com­po­nent here: the mys­tery of it, the need for it and—ul­ti­mately—the val­i­da­tion of it.

The trailer pretty much tells the whole story so there will be no spoil­ers here. But be­cause we know what will hap­pen at the out­set, the chal­lenge for di­rec­tor Pa­tri­cia Riggen is find­ing a source of ten­sion to keep us emo­tion­ally en­gaged.

At the film’s start, 10-yearold Anna (Kylie Rogers, show­ing not the slight­est trace of childac­tor pre­co­cious­ness) is the mid­dle child of three daugh­ters in a lov­ing and de­voutly Chris­tian home in Burleson, Texas, just south of Fort Worth. She’s a smart, con­fi­dent kid with a pas­sion for books and a yearn­ing to visit Paris. But out of nowhere one night, she’s vi­o­lently vom­it­ing, which leads to mas­sive stom­ach pain, which leads to var­i­ous doc­tors telling Christy and her vet­eri­nar­ian hus­band, Kevin (Martin Hen­der­son), that it’s lac­tose in­tol­er­ance or acid re­flux or some­thing else that’s mi­nor and treat­able.

But the pain doesn’t go away. In fact, it gets worse. So Christy’s fierce ma­ter­nal in­stinct in­spires her to fly with Anna to Bos­ton in hopes of see­ing top pe­di­atric gas­troen­terol­o­gist Dr. Sa­muel Nurko (Eu­ge­nio Der­bez) whom she’s been call­ing for months to sched­ule an ap­point­ment. When he even­tu­ally agrees to see them, he con­firms what a lo­cal doc­tor (Bruce Alt­man, very good in a small role) ini­tially di­ag­nosed: Anna is suf­fer­ing from a se­vere and in­cur­able in­testi­nal motil­ity disor­der which makes eat­ing im­pos­si­ble.

From there, it’s a non-stop back-and-forth be­tween Texas and Bos­ton, with some painful mo­ments in­volv­ing feed­ing tubes as well as heav­enly im­agery of sun­light pierc­ing fluffy, white clouds or the wa­ter where majestic crea­tures swim at the New Eng­land Aquar­ium.

‘Mir­a­cles From Heaven’ wisely and ef­fi­ciently de­picts the toll Anna’s ill­ness is tak­ing on this once-idyl­lic home, with Kevin strug­gling to make ends meet and gen­er­ally hold­ing down the fort while Christy and Anna are away ev­ery six weeks.

One of the most poignant scenes is also one of the most un­der­stated as Anna and the young girl in the hospital bed next to her (Han­nah Al­li­good), who’s battling cancer, dis­cuss whether they’re afraid of dy­ing. The di­rect­ness on dis­play in Randy Brown’s script, and in later scenes when Anna suf­fers from de­pres­sion and Christy ac­knowl­edges that her faith is so shat­tered that she can’t even pray any­more, rep­re­sents a wel­come bal­ance of emo­tion and tone.

Ul­ti­mately, though, the film is about the pos­si­bil­ity of mir­a­cles.

Anna emerges from the de­ba­cle with a vivid story about leav­ing her body and go­ing to heaven, a place so vi­brantly, col­or­fully pas­toral you’ll swear you’ve seen it in count­less com­mer­cials for al­lergy med­i­ca­tion. (Vis­ual ef­fects are not the film’s strong suit.) There, God has told her she’ll be fine, and she should go home to her fam­ily. Im­pos­si­ble? Maybe. But the film sug­gests that you can in­ter­pret this mag­i­cal mo­ment in any way you like, de­pend­ing on your be­liefs and needs—and that’s sort of mirac­u­lous in it­self.

( Re­view from rogere­bert.com)

‘Mir­a­cles From Heaven’ - now play­ing.

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