Oh my god, this FUCKING TRAILER!!! UGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!
Sorry, sorry, regaining my composure. If you’ve seen as many movies and as frequently as I have, you’d be almost a little too familiar with this trailer, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if the trailer was any good. But no, the trailer basically gives you the movie. Happy Christian family suffers a tragedy when one of the daughters comes down with an illness that regular doctors can’t identify, giving false diagnoses, the works, until one doctor figures it out. The little girl struggles until she falls from a tree, hits her head… and it miraculously cured, all believing it’s the work of the divine.
Just to be clear, I didn’t give anything away. That’s all in the trailer… and if you haven’t seen the trailer then… erm…… SPOILER ALERT!!! *awkward smile*
Before getting to the review itself, I wanted to share something I noticed while watching the trailer itself. Yes, it basically gives you the entire movie, but did anyone else notice that Jennifer Garner’s character never says her daughter’s name? She only refers to her as, “our little girl,” “my daughter,” “this loving girl,” “this baby girl,” never by her real name. I think one of her sisters calls her Anna, but never the mom. I don’t know, I giggle at the little things. Or maybe I was going insane from watching this damn trailer so many times.
Well whatever, the movie’s released… on a random ass Wednesday… and I wanted to get it out of the way. This is my honest opinion of MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN.
Based on the memoir Miracles from Heaven: A Little Girl, Her Journey to Heaven, and Her Amazing Story of Healing, by Christy Beam, the story follows a religious Texan farm family, the Beams. The family is as happy as can be until the middle child Anna (Kylie Rogers) comes down with a mysterious illness, unable to eat food, and a bloating of her stomach that is constantly in pain. Anna’s mother Christy (Jennifer Garner) takes Anna to every doctor that she can, but each of them tell her something that she knows just isn’t true. When treatments begin to fail, another doctor comes in and discovers that Anna is suffering from a pseudo-obstruction motility disorder, a condition with no cure. Though the hospital is unable to do anything more for Anna, Christy is referred to a child doctor named Dr. Samuel Nurko (Eugenio Derbez). However, because he’s such a sought after doctor, Anna has to be put on a waiting list of nine months. But as Anna’s condition only gets worse, Christy fears that Anna may not have that time and takes matters into her own hands.
Well… shit, if you read my prologue or the summary which mentions the title of the book, you can humorously guess the story.
So… I guess the review’s over. Good night, everybody! Have a great weekend!
Oh piss it, curse my love of talking about movies. Okay okay, time to take things a little more cereal (I know what I said!). Truth be told… the film as a whole isn’t all bad. It’s nothing amazing, but there are some good things about it.
But let’s start with why the movie as a whole fails if you’ve seen the trailer. Because of it, the movie leaves no shock, no surprises. You know exactly what’s going to happen before it even happens, and whatever spaces are left, it barely matters because you know what the scene will end up leading to anyway. I wager if you’ve never seen the trailer, then you’re good, but it’s still based on true events so… you can Wikipedia or Google this stuff and get informed pretty quick.
As you may have guessed from the trailer as well (yes, I will be referencing that freakin’ trailer a lot in this review), it’s pretty heavy-handed in religion. Now, it’s no big secret that I’m not a religious bloke, but I can appreciate a good story, whether it has God as the subject matter or not. If there are characters that believe in God and practice Christianity, fine, whatever. Well-written characters are all that matters. But… sorry to show my true colors here, but as of right now, we do not actually know that God exists. God has not parted the clouds to say hello to everyone. We only hope that he does. Even I kind of hope, but remain skeptical. But this movie loses a ton of its credibility when it physically shows what Heaven looks like and what God looks like (albeit, more ambiguously). This is not something I can accept on a story-level. Personally, Heaven is too abstract to give a true description. Even if the real Anna could accurately describe what she saw, there’s no telling if what she saw is something anyone else may have seen or will see. This is especially true since the movie isn’t told in Anna’s perspective, but rather Christy’s. Christy doesn’t know what Anna saw and therefore, can only imagine… like the audience. If the story was told in Anna’s perspective, while still providing an answer to the age-old question, “is there a Heaven or God?” which is… just something no one can claim in this day and age, would still make more sense as what’s going on in Anna’s mind would be the primary focus, rather than Christy’s.
This is, ironically, the Cardinal sin of any religious movie. Most religious movies claim that’s the answer: pray to God and you will get what you want. In real life, this would more often than not lead to some major disappointment and test a believer’s faith. Not that this movie doesn’t touch upon the subject, but instead of being open minded that there is a medical or scientific reason for Anna’s recovery that science hasn’t yet discovered, the movie simply chalks it up to, “God! God answered my prayers!” Even if in the future we discover for a fact that God exists, this movie isn’t in hindsight saying, “I told you so,” but rather wiping away sweat saying, “oh thank God, we lucked out on that one.” The way this movie handles religious beliefs isn’t something I can get behind and really deters me from fully liking it.
Have I mentioned how some of the doctors act in this movie? Visibly showing signs of annoyance, shaking his head in frustration while still in the line of sight of patients, and showing apathy toward a rightfully concerned mother with a sick child in the hospital, even going so far as saying, “ma’am, I’m the doctor and this is my diagnosis.” What fucking doctor in their right mind would say that?? And I love how these doctors give their diagnoses without actually presenting any evidence as to why they think lactose intolerance, or whatever else was said, would be the reason for Anna’s pain. It’s just… “this is why, I’m the doctor, now shove off.” The movie fails to show how the doctors could have missed this problem with Anna and instead makes them out to be incompetent. I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie ends up being propaganda for the religious community to raise their fists at medical practitioners that they think act like this, even though they don’t.
*Deep breath in, deep breath out* Alright. Well, enough of that. I said that there was good stuff in here and I meant it.
First and foremost, the primary actors, Garner and Rogers are unbelievable. Even though Garner’s career has mostly been riddled with flops and critically panned movies, and her good ones are under everyone’s radar, she is an incredible actress. She perfectly conveys a God-fearing woman who feels completely powerless to help her sick daughter, her outrage when doctors tell her information that she knows is untrue, Garner shines in this film.
And right by her side is the young Rogers. For a girl her age, I was thoroughly impressed with her in this. She perfectly flows through the gauntlet of joy, depression, anger, sadness, confusion, fear… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, that’s a challenge even for seasoned actors, but Rogers tackles it like a damn pro. I really wanted to give her a standing ovation for just her. Garner’s always been a great actress, she’s just never had the right material to showcase it all the time. But Rogers is an unknown and I wasn’t expecting her to be such a powerhouse.
But it doesn’t end with them. Derbez as Dr. Nurko was incredible as well. He is so funny and charming when dealing with his patients, but very professional and honest with the parents. He never stops believing in the recovery of Anna, and when he smiles his smile of hope, you genuinely believe him, even if the odds are stacked against them. He’s a wonderfully written character and fantastically acted.
And a fair amount of attention is given to the father Kevin, played by Martin Henderson, and the two sisters Abbie, played by Brighton Sharbino, and Adelynn, played by Courtney Fansler, and how the situation affects them. Kevin has to work longer hours to be able to pay for the travels between Texas and Boston, which eventually causes Abbie to miss a soccer tryout that her dad was supposed to give her a lift to, and it gets pretty heartbreaking. Personal opinion, the power of religion is fine. If that’s what you need to get through the day to hold on to hope and make yourself a better, more productive person, I can never argue that. But it’s moments like when the family is reunited in Boston that make me think, this isn’t the work of any God. This is the strength and perseverance of the human spirit and I don’t think enough credit is given that in these movies.
To close this all off, I will be the first to admit: yeah, I cried during this movie. A couple times, actually. On that principle alone, I should give this movie high praise, as I do love movies that can bring that out of me. But because I’m so against religious movies taking the routes they do like this, this movie isn’t new or unique, except in that when it needs to bring out emotions, it succeeds. You do get invested in Anna’s plight, but the religious pandering is incredibly distracting and leaves a fairly sour taste in my mouth. Not all bad, the good shouldn’t be ignored, but… man, this movie could have been so much more than what it ended up being.
My honest rating: a strong 3/5