Miracles from Heaven, 2016.
Directed by Patricia Riggen.
Starring Jennifer Garner, Kylie Rogers, Eugenio Derbez, Martin Henderson, John Carroll Lynch, Brighton Sharbino, Courtney Fansler, and Queen Latifah.
A young girl suffering from a rare digestive disorder finds herself miraculously cured after surviving a terrible accident.
As Easter sneaks up on us, studios begin dropping all of their religion oriented stories into cinemas out of good timing. Some of them take their preachy tone to unbearable levels, while very rarely some present an unbiased look at a narrative. Miracles From Heaven isn’t the Bible thumping “all hail Jesus and his unparalleled generosity” tale it’s marketed as, although the movie is most assuredly aimed at that devoted crowd.
Miracles From Heaven ultimately ends up as one of the more tolerable religious flicks in recent memory for quite a few reasons, with the greatest strength surprisingly being its acting. Veteran actress Jennifer Garner in the distressed, loving mother role winding up highly convincing was to be expected, but it is child actress Kylie Rogers that superbly sells the aching bloated stomach pain of Anna’s rare intestinal disorder. Her will to live is slowly sucked out, and the frustrations are palpable..
There is a creative decision at the center of the plot that definitely pays off, which is to hone in on all of this suffering, depicting Anna as your typical happy-go-lucky child that is slowly broken down mentally and physically. First, it’s just basic food like pizza being taken away from her young life, then increasing physical pain, hard to watch medical procedures, and before you know it, reaching a state of pure depression whereas death seems to be the only release. There is even a scene where mother and daughter discuss accepting this possible fate, and while it is highly emotionally manipulative, it still stings your heart watching a young, fragile little girl go through an experience so hellish.
Of course, it never gets too sad because we know where the movie is going and the point of the project. Yes, it’s based on a true story (depending on whether you choose to believe the girl’s story, or just chalk it up as some freak accident and dream), but it’s hard to take the moments of faith breaking with a great deal of weight considering that the movie is made primarily for Christians, and that God will make everything right in the end.
Still, it must be said that the filmmakers don’t go down that route to nauseating levels (it does come close though towards the end), with one lady of the same church actually questioning the morality of the family and child, correlating it to her seemingly never-ending pain. It’s a scene that actually angered me in a good way, because there seriously are messed up people in the head that will assume all things good and bad in your life come from karma and your dedication to religion. What horse-shit, that exposes just how big-headed and ugly some religious people behave.
Unfortunately, whenever Miracles from Heaven isn’t showcasing Anna’s harrowing pain or the all too relatable frustrations of her mother arguing with doctors and emotionally exhausting herself trying to reach the root of the problem, the script goes on some strange diversions. When in Boston seeing the highly respected pediatrician that could potentially treat little Anna, the duo befriend a stereotypical chatterbox black woman played by none other than Queen Latifah, who gives them a tour guide of the historic city and its landmarks while indulging in some very offbeat and out-of-place comedy, like messing around with her beat down car. The scenes feel like they are lifted out of a completely different movie, and add nothing whatsoever to the story.
Again, once the miracle finally happens, the movie does transition into everything you expect/fear. God listened and chose to heal her, nevermind the fact that millions of other people are suffering and are probably equally deserving of also being saved. There is no restraint in the final 20 minutes, but instead an attempt at appeasing the religious fan-base all-out, even going as far as to conjure up a dreamlike version of heaven.
Regardless, Miracles from Heaven gets more right than it does wrong. Anna’s relationship with her doctor is also just one of the sweetest things. It is incredibly obvious that Eugenio Derbez spent some time around real-life doctors and how they interact with children, whether it be diagnosing them or trying to convey a feeling of care and comfort. The scenes and acting between all three leads are essentially what makes the movie rise above being disposable religious garbage; we care for the girl’s suffering, the mother’s struggle, and hope all the medical science available to the doctor is enough, even though we know a miracle from heaven is directly around the corner.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
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