Miracles From Heaven is not typically the type of movie I would find myself watching. I’ll even admit to scoffing at the previews I’ve seen for it. To be perfectly honest, I am not a big Jennifer Garner fan. I don’t feel like she has much range when it comes to acting and something about her personality and some of the faces she makes, just rubs me the wrong way. On top of that, I am not a huge fan of religion. While I’ve recently spent time exploring my personal spirituality, that pursuit has only caused me to cast even more of a side eye at the kind of folks that get caught up in their own religious fervor.
All that being said, I went into this movie a little skeptical of what I might find and was quite literally surprised by how much I liked it. While the basic driving point of the movie is a little girl, Anna Beam, that develops a rare and incurable digestive disorder and how she and the rest of the Beam family copes with it while trying to find treatment, what we are really being shown is a desperate mother’s crisis of faith. No longer finding answers or solace through prayer or church, Jennifer Garner does her best to portray Christy Beam, the matriarch of a family desperately seeking answers from a God she has so devoutly worshipped and come to rely on. Notice I say, does her best, because again, she doesn’t have much range and at times her emotions just do not come across well on screen. When I think of a mother filled with despair as she watches her daughter succumb to a disease which she can do nothing about, I think of Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment, or Sally Field in Steel Magnolias. Big shoes to fill, I know, however considering she has kids of her own, you would think she could show more convincing emotions instead of coming across like a new actress trying to figure out how to properly emote on screen.
Not being a very religious person I was pleasantly surprised by a movie that is touted as a Christian film, which was able to get across the beauty of having faith and believing in something while not pushing an agenda. The film does a great job of showing a balanced portrayal of your average Christian family and the issues they face in life and in their own beliefs and faith. No sugar coating the fact that you can find negative people even amongst “good God fearing” people, Christy finds herself enraged by some fellow parishioners that seem to think that a secret family sin could be the reason behind her daughter’s prolonged suffering. Instead of spending and hour and a half praising God for his love and healing powers, the film takes us down a path where you are presented with this family’s story and how they deal with it yet you are allowed to make up your own mind, never being condemned for not believing however, being prodded to open your eyes to the world around you to find the miracles in everyday life.
Having dealt with a similar crisis of faith recently, this film spoke to me in ways I did not expect it to. I felt like it approached it’s subject matter with an open mind and heart and tried to allow the beauty of faith and love simply speak for itself. As much as a skeptic as I can be when it comes to the notion of religion and God, I found myself wanting this little girl’s faith to pay off for her. While Christy finds herself admitting to not having faith anymore, Anna never gives up and finds peace in the notion that to die would bring her peace and allow her to join God. That is a powerful and mature notion to come from such a young girl dealing with so much more than she should have to and no matter what you believe, you have to have a pretty hardened heart not to be inspired by her resolve or at least respect her for understanding the power of pure love from straight from the source.
So while I may have gone in a bit skeptical to see a Christian film about miracles, I came out with a different perspective on what it means to have faith. You won’t find me in church on Sunday but I’d be lying if I said this film didn’t make me reflect and ponder my own spirituality and what it does for me. While the movie itself may not do much for the believability of Jenn Garner’s emotions, it will definitely touch yours and that is the mark of a true, feel good film, regardless of the subject matter.
Miracles From Heaven opens March 16, 2016.