He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. (Psalm 18:16)
Faith-based movies are getting better.
A while back it was hard even to find a film that was clean and decent, much less one that was well done and had a Christian world view. I remember years ago I was in a Christian book store when a lady was asking if anyone had seen the movie she was thinking of buying. I had seen it, but hesitated to give my opinion, since my opinion was, It was poorly written, poorly directed, and poorly acted, but other than that it was great. (I have a theater degree with a major in directing, so admittedly I can be a bit harsh.) Fortunately before I got cornered, another woman gushed, “Oh, it was wonderful!” I guess opinions differ.
Since then I’ve seen some faith-based films I would call wonderful, and they seem to be coming more frequently. I think that for a while Hollywood got the idea that making movies that appealed to Christians was not profitable, probably due to the church people who said all Hollywood movies were from the pit of hell and swore they’d never go to one. (You know who you are.)
But when Mel Gibson recommitted his life to Christ and decided to produce a movie showing “the wounds that healed my wounds,” The Passion of the Christ was proof that a faith-based film could be successful and that Christians didn’t need to be afraid of tackling the stark realities of evil and pain in a fallen world.
What I’m liking best about the movies being produced now is their honesty. Christian movies of the past used to present the believers as the “good guys” and the unbelievers as the “bad guys.” But more recent films are showing the truth about Christians – that we are human, too, and can be just as flawed as the unbelievers, maybe more. Case in point: Breakthrough.
This movie tells the true story (my favorite kind) of a teenager named Josh who broke through the ice, was submerged for 15 minutes, then without a pulse for more than 45 minutes (i.e. clinically dead).
[Spoiler Alert] What happened to this boy was what the doctors called a miracle, but the real miracle (breakthrough) was the transformation in the two main characters.
At the beginning of the story Josh (Topher Grace) is in many ways a typical teenager, growing increasingly unresponsive to his mother’s attempts to connect with him. (Every time the kid rolled his eyes and muttered “Whatever,” I wanted to slap him.)
The mom (Chrissy Metz – This Is Us) has her own issues. She isn’t happy with the new pastor – she doesn’t like his hair, his style of preaching, or the new music he’s brought into the church to appeal to the youth. Her comments are negative, and in many instances downright rude. Seeing the mom and the young pastor interact made me cringe. It also made me laugh. Yep, Christians can be opinionated and unreasonable. (Please don’t ask me how I know…)
Later in the story, under the stress of her son’s life-threatening situation, the mom becomes even more difficult to deal with; she seems angry with everyone. When others freely give their negative prognosis in front of the comatose boy, it was hard to watch the mom’s irate (albeit understandable) lashing out at them, and that rage spilling over onto others.
The father’s unwillingness to go into his son’s hospital room (“It’s hard … “) made me want to drag him there, whether he wanted to be there or not. (This isn’t about you, buddy.)
There were several “God moments” that made me want to cheer, and they weren’t just when Josh wakes up – although that was amazing, too. One of the most poignant scenes is when a flock of friends gathers outside the hospital, holding candles and singing to Josh. Though he’s still in a coma, a single tear trickles down the face of this once cocky, aloof kid, who used to think no one cared about him.
Soon after, the mother’s apology to the pastor and her explanation of why she’s such a “control freak” makes sense of the previous scenes, and her final surrender of her will to God on the roof of the hospital is the turning point of the movie – the real breakthrough.
The story doesn’t end with everything making sense and everyone living happily ever after. Very real questions arise, such as “Why did you get a miracle, but my mom is still dying?” Josh has no pat answers. (And Mom still wants to fix the pastor’s hair.)
Breakthrough doesn’t put God in a box. It is a true story of people who got a glimpse of God’s providence, but there are still things He does that we don’t understand – such as using an atheist to rescue Josh from the frigid water – and in this life there always will be.
Bottom line: Breakthrough is, in my not-so-humble opinion, a well-written, well-directed, well-acted, faith-based movie definitely worth seeing. Far from some of the sappy, humorless, unrealistic films of the past, with one-dimensional characters, this is a story many of us will relate to, with real people and their cringeworthy reactions to life. Enjoy it with the family one of these cold January days. (It’s available on Amazon Prime.)
And to all Christian film-makers out there: You are appreciated! Keep them coming! And keep them real.
Prayer: Lord God, each of us has our quirks and flaws, and yet You are so patient with us. Thank You that we don’t have to be perfect for You to love us and do a work in our lives. Thanks You for the miracles You are doing in our time as well as two thousand years ago. You are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Amen.