Faith is put to the test in this tearjerker based upon a true story about a Christian family. It was Albert Einstein who said there are two ways to live your life – one as if nothing is a miracle and the other as though everything is. Many of us reach a crucial moment in our lives when we feel like we have run out of options. It could be a precipitated by a health crisis, a tough emotional dilemma or a significant family issue. Regardless, we hit a proverbial brick wall, as a result of which hope and everything that sustains us through the day-to-day seems to evaporate. And so it does in this story.
Christy Beam (played by Jennifer Garner) was living a joyful life in Texas with her veterinarian husband and three daughters when her middle child Annabel, known as Anna (Kylie Rogers), got sick. At first doctors couldn’t even diagnose what was wrong, but eventually they did and the news was terrible – it was a heart-wrenching fatal disorder, one that left Anna unable to digest food. The best medicos were at a loss to find a solution and all of Christy’s relentless efforts to heal her daughter seemed to be failing. Though unwilling to give up externally, internally Christy was terrified, uncertain and lost. Then something totally unexpected happened.
Miracles from Heaven is based upon a memoir of the same name written by Christy Beam. The screenplay is by Randy Brown (Trouble with the Curve), with direction from Patricia Riggen (Under the Same Moon). The core of the story is a mother “on fire” – an impassioned, constantly questioning, 21st Century woman who never lets up or lets go in her efforts to try to keep her child from harm. But the control she has always known is no longer there nor within her grasp.
Garner is strong and powerful in the lead, as the mother tortured by what is going down. Her husband, Kevin (Martin Henderson), although a devoted and caring parent in his own right, plays a secondary role. Christy and Kevin have just mortgaged the family farm to the hilt to enable him to buy a big veterinary practice and when the medical catastrophe strikes the family, financial issues arise.
Henderson says one of the things that felt “authentic” about the script was the portrait of a marriage under pressure. “Christy is faced with the question … ‘if I’m a good person and I’m doing all the right things, why is my daughter not getting better?’ “And that starts to form a wedge between her and Kevin … because he’s been there trying to just keep things running … so it’s also the story of how a husband and wife overcome tough times.”
Kylie Rogers plays wise beyond her years as the little girl with big, big problems. She makes Anna eminently likeable. As a matter of fact, nearly all the characters are. That is why when the diagnosis is finally made and the fallout occurs it hits so hard.
There is no mistaking the fact that you can feel yourself being manipulated in Miracles from Heaven. Some people will, no doubt, find that too much, just as they won’t take kindly to the preachy tone of the film, especially the finale. I, though, simply accepted it as the way Christy Beam, who lived through the situation portrayed, decided to tell her story. That, and the fact that I am generally a sucker for a semi-decent weepie, which this is. You can rationalise all you like why what ended up happening did, but the one thing I will say is that this isn’t a film for cynics who may regard it as a “B” grade telemovie for the bible bashers.
Also featuring Queen Latifah as a Good Samaritan with a rebellious streak, Miracles from Heaven still managed to move me. Rated PG, it scores a 6½ out of 10.
Director: Patricia Riggen
Cast: Jennifer Garner, Kylie Rogers, Martin Henderson, John Carroll Lynch, Eugenio Derbez, Queen Latifah
Release Date: 17 March 2016
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television