Breakthrough: Believe In Miracles


‘Please God, don’t take my son!’ This quote of a mother pleading with God for her son’s life becomes the golden thread of the movie Breakthrough (2019). After falling through the ice and being under water for 15 minutes, the medical professionals had no hope of survival for the 14-year old John Smith (Marcel Ruiz).  Only his mother Joyce (Chrissy Metz) did not give up and continued to pray and talk to her son until the impossible became possible.

This Christian drama, directed by Roxanne Dawson and produced by Unanimous Media for 20th Century Fox,is an inspirational faith-based movie that allows believers and non-believers alike to experience the close encounter of death and life, whilst exploring the unrelenting love of a mother fighting for her son’s life. The film is based on book ‘The Impossible’ written by the main character Joyce Smith who is played out in the movie by Chrissy Metz from the top US-series ‘This Is Us’.

John’s (Marcel Ruiz) parents Joyce and Brian Smith (Josh Lucas) adopted the boy of Guatemalan descent and although being dearly cared for and supported, John struggles with feelings of abandonment from his birth parents and so battles to fully accept his adopted parents love. The film follows John’s feelings of alienation from his family and friends. In class, John had to present an assignment on his family background. Trying to get out of it, he is warned by his basketball coach to get good grades in order to play with the team. John returns to class and gives a half-hearted account telling everyone that he doesn’t know much as everyone knows that he is adopted.

Soon after, John and his two friends, Josh and Reiger (named after his surname as his first name is also Josh) go hang out on a frozen lake. A close resident tells the boys to the leave the lake, as the ice is thin, but the teenagers ignore the warning and continue walking on the iced-over lake. Soon after, the icy surface cracks, and all three fall  into the freezing cold water. The two other boys make it out of the piercing cold water, but John stays stuck under the icy surface.

What follows is the unfolding of a miracle. John is rushed to hospital and about to be declared dead by the doctor. Joyce gets a last chance to say goodbye to her son and in that moment she begs God to spare his life....

This point is known as the climax or the ‘Plot Pivot Point’ which (according to tvtropes) is a specific moment during the story where “if something different had happened, or if some character had made a different decision, the entire plot would collapse and there would be no story left to tell.” Fortunately, a dramatic miracle happened at this point!  In a memorable moment of poignancy that will touch your heart, the mother Joyce, sitting at her son’s hospital bedside while he’s still in a coma with no medical reason for him to recover, speaks to him in defiant love and hope saying, “You are my pride and joy, I can’t wait to see you shoot those baskets and run up and down again.”

Soon after a faint heartbeat becomes visible on the monitor and the medical staff rush back in the room to stabilize the young man. Although being hopeful, the attendant physician warns the parents that John’s chances of survival are  slim. Nevertheless, Joyce continues to pray and assembles her church to pray for and believe in John’s full recovery.

Alongside the central story of John’s relationship with his parents, a strong sub-plot that adds depth to the film is the story of the rescue worker Tommy Shine (Mike Colter) and his own God-encounter during the rescue mission. Also, Joyce’s relationship with the pastor of their church gives another element of strong characterisation.

As in John’s real life, the film’s impact is powerful. The audience is left to wonder: why did John survive when so many others in that situation would have died? A further plot twist  shows John returning to school after being discharged from the hospital, where everyone is incredulous that he survived this ordeal. Despite a somewhat predictable storyline, the film captivates its audience through Joyce’s faith which shines through, and her unrelenting determination to push through and believe in the impossible. Thanks to the strong plot and characters driving the film , viewers can’t help but be left feeling uplifted,  maybe even with a renewed belief in miracles. At the fundamental level, although this is a Christian film, its message is truly universal: it inspires you to believe in the unlimited power of the human spirit to survive even the most deadly situations, and it’s an enduring testament to the passionate, visceral intensity of a mother’s love for her child.

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Average rating:  
 5 reviews
by San Francisco Chronicle, G. Allen Johnson - METASCORE on BlurayFilmer

The story is well-told, but what makes it interesting is that each character confronts his or her own crisis — even Tommie, the paramedic who rescued him. It also drives home the point that a seemingly small tragic event can affect an entire community

by The New York Times, Bilge Ebiri - METASCORE on BlurayFilmer

“Breakthrough” is more suggestive than evangelical, and its willingness to let the mystery of the young man’s survival linger enhances the film’s power. You don’t have to believe in divine intervention to be moved by this story.

by Breakthrough - IMDb on BlurayFilmer

When her 14-year-old son drowns in a lake, a faithful mother prays for him to come back from the brink of death and be healed.

by Katie Walsh, Los Angeles Times - Rotten Tomatoes on BlurayFilmer

one of the more authentically moving entries in the genre, fueled by a gripping lead performance from "This Is Us" star Chrissy Metz.

by Rex Reed, Observer - Rotten Tomatoes on BlurayFilmer

Another glib and unconvincing faith-based movie that pushes miracles, spirituality and divine intervention, hoping for box-office gold. A terrific cast is the only thing that saves it from last rites.