Religious films have a bit of a bad reputation, and it’s easy to see why. They’re often made solely to deliver a message, which can be alienating to anybody who doesn’t share the beliefs of the filmmakers. Personally, I’m not religious, so I have no natural predisposition to like this film, and might even watch it with a more disparaging and critical eye than I would had this story been adapted with more ambiguity. That being said, I do always try to keep an open mind, and as long as things don’t get too preachy (I don’t want to feel like I’m going to hell whilst watching a movie), it could still prove to be better than this genre tends to be.
Miracles From Heaven is the true story of Anna Beam (Kylie Rogers), and an eleven-year-old girl who develops an untreatable stomach condition. After struggling emotionally and financially for a number of months her parents begin to accept that there may not be a cure. One day whilst playing with her sisters, she has a terrible accident, but when she wakes up, she might have been miraculously cured – but how?
I was almost hesitant to write a synopsis here, as there’s no way of saying what this film is about without ruining the end. I know that shouldn’t be a surprise since this is based on a true story (can there be spoilers for real life?), but even so, knowing just the basic outline of this plot means you know how it ends, and truthfully it might not have needed almost two hours of a film to get there.
As someone who doesn’t believe in the ideas this film is preaching, it’s easy to see how it could come across as being ridiculous, or at least exaggerated for dramatic effect, but this film has something working strongly in its favour. No, I’m not talking about God, I’m talking about acting, specifically, child actress Kylie Rogers, who plays Anna Beam, and believable portrays all stages a young girl who’s constantly suffering. She pulls off heavy dramatic scenes and provides an emotional core throughout. Jennifer Garner is also on top form here as the Mother who just wants to keep everything together, and there’s a brilliant supporting performance from Eugenio Derbez, who plays the child doctor anybody would want to be treated by.
Whilst the main bulk of the run time is presented as being a straight drama, there are a few times that Miracles From Heaven slips into preach mode. A few extended scenes of a band playing to a congregation feel forced, and some of the dialogue is a little bit on the nose, but overall the film is very restrained in the message it’s trying to get across, which is definitely the route this genre needs to go down if it ever hopes to expand beyond the target demographic. There’s one more small thing that bothered me, which is that there’s a tree that features heavily in this film, and it looks really fake. This may not sound like a big issue, but when you know what role it plays in the story, and see how many shots it’s in, you’ll know why it bothered me so much.
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