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.

36 thoughts on “Breakthrough

  1. I have no expertise in media but I have always been jaded from a young age about how well meaning Christians do things. Trying to appear better than they are. thanks. Ann. I’ve had my own breakthroughs through the years and have seen it in others. Proof to me that God does the miraculous in many ways outside of our thinking and leaves us with unanswered questions. God does not feel a need to answer to us because HE IS GOD.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Excellent review. I appreciate that you wrote: “The story doesn’t end with everything making sense and everyone living happily ever after.”

    This is realistic and so important for Christian movies to include. One movie I really hated was “Fireproof.” I didn’t mind the story line, but I hated the goofy and awkwardly-executed “humor,” the amateur acting (aside from Kirk Cameron), and worst of all, the way everything ties up into a neat, happily-ever-after bow. That really disappointed me.

    Christian movies should be about real life and the Gospel — that Christ is the only way to salvation and eternal life — and that we are guaranteed nothing by way of a good life here on Earth.

    I very much enjoyed your blog!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Yep. You hit the nail on the head about my struggle with a lot of Christian movies. With my own theater/writing background, I have bean concerned I was just too nitpicky ( Probably because I have been told I was.😁). I had heard about this one but haven’t gotten a chance to see it yet. Our family enjoys movie time together and we especially love true stories, particularly when they STAY true. The end aim should never be to present that life for Christians is rosy or the solutions come easily. That will just disillusion those we want to reach when their problems don’t magically disappear. Thanks for giving us your perspective in this, Annie. I think I will have to seek this is a movie I will have to look for. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And…I don’t know what in the world I was going for in that last sentence expect to TRY to say I was going to look for it to watch. 😏 I think my brain is telling me it’s time to slow down a bit. πŸ˜„

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ok…last one. Promise. I think autocorrect is messing with me or I just need to go back to bed and start over. except, not expect. πŸ™„

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I have not particularly liked some of the Christian movies that I have watched before. Even though I am no theatre expert , the acting and story line can be really bad. And I have always felt that I as a Christian should be supporting these movies more. You right that they have definitely gotten better over time, I have seen some good ones and have enjoyed them. Thank you for sharing your take in this movie.
    I have not seen this one but will check it out now.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes this one (Breakthrough) was a good one!!❀️
    I can be pretty critical over movies, tv shows etc too so I get what you mean!
    Loved the β€˜realistic living’ in this movie.❀️


  6. We’re always looking for worthwhile movies to watch! Thank you for the recommendation of Breakthrough. Now I have one for you: Healing River. Maybe you’ve already seen it. (Am I remembering you read Mitch Teemley’s blog? This is one of the films he’s written and directed. ) We found it to be an outstanding film. Not only is the story compelling, but the acting is superb. You may need a few Kleenex at the beginning, but the ending is worth it! Available on Amazon Prime, as I recall.

    Liked by 1 person

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