Film Review: ‘Miracles From Heaven’

'Miracles From Heaven' Review: Jennifer Garner's
Courtesy of Sony

Jennifer Garner carries a faith-based successor to sleeper hit 'Heaven Is for Real.'

The very premise of “Miracles From Heaven” offers an argument against its own existence. If there are miracles everywhere we look, who wants to waste time on a movie this middling? Not that faith-based audiences will object to the unapologetic manipulations in such an innocuous slice of inspirational hokum, especially when it’s served up with the utmost sincerity. Instead the frequently fickle crowd should turn out in droves for a pic that’s a spiritual successor in every way to 2014’s sleeper hit “Heaven Is for Real.” This similarly “based on a true story” tale of a child who claims to have visited heaven and lived to share the good news looks perfectly poised for a blessed run at the box office during the same Easter-season window.

Helmer Patricia Riggen’s pic (arriving months after her previous film, “The 33”) may be preaching to the choir, but those unlikely to sing along weren’t going to show up anyway. With that in mind, it’s almost surprising that “Miracles From Heaven” takes any risks at all. From a blunt acknowledgement of the holier-than-thou attitudes of certain churchgoers, to a sustained focus on a woman’s crisis of faith throughout her child’s life-threatening battle with a rare illness, the film isn’t all homilies and hallelujahs. Although there’s plenty of that, too.

Scribe Randy Brown’s adaptation is based on the memoir of Texas mother-of-three Christy Beam (played by Jennifer Garner), whose daughter Annabel (Kylie Rogers) developed chronic stomach problems as a preteen, was ultimately diagnosed with an intestinal motility disorder and nearly died. While Christy’s veterinarian husband Kevin (Martin Henderson) and their other two daughters — the eldest, Abbie (Brighton Sharbino), and the precocious youngest, Adelynn (Courtney Fansler) — did what they could to support Annabel, it’s Christy who labors endlessly to find a way to save her daughter’s life. Even if it means temporarily relocating to Boston and crashing the office of sought-after specialist Dr. Nurko (Eugenio Derbez, like a less cloying Patch Adams) without an appointment.

Christy’s fierce commitment to Annabel becomes the film’s backbone, and it’s a credit that the bulk of the running time is spent grappling with Annabel’s illness and the hopelessness that overtakes both mother and daughter. Getting the appropriate diagnosis was enough of an ordeal, but learning from Dr. Nurko that there is no cure pushes the family to the brink and causes Christy to back away from her formerly unshakeable faith.

In a welcome gender reversal from the father-son dynamic of “Heaven Is for Real,” Garner and Rogers deliver fully committed performances that credibly convey the physical and mental anguish endured by sick children and their caregivers. This is standard disease-of-the-week telepic stuff (and Riggen’s blandly antiseptic visual approach can hardly be dubbed cinematic), but rendered with enough detail to practically qualify as a horror movie for parents. As Annabel’s crippling pain takes its own toll on Christy, the film raises inevitable questions about God’s plans and what happens when a child loses her will to live. (After all, if heaven is waiting for real, why endure unthinkable misery?)

But eventually “Miracles From Heaven” gets around to its big miracle: Annabel’s spontaneous remission, a development with no medical explanation, after she suffers a terrifying fall into the center of a hollow cottonwood (convincingly reproduced by production designer David R. Sandefur) in the family’s backyard. The disappearance of her disease shocks everyone, but it’s Annabel’s gentle insistence that she took an out-of-body trip to heaven (depicted via visual effects somewhere between Peter Jackson’s garish “The Lovely Bones” and a Monet painting that captivates Annabel in a Boston museum) when she was unconscious that firmly reconnects Christy with her Christianity.

The whole ordeal is wrapped up in a bow when kindly Pastor Scott (an underused John Carroll Lynch) invites Christy to speak during church, where she delivers a quote dubiously attributed to Einstein (“There are only two ways to live your life. One as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle”) and a nonbelieving journalist (Wayne Pere), whose own daughter shared a hospital room with Annabel, springs to Christy’s defense after an outburst from a skeptical parishioner. Cue the slow clap-turned-standing ovation crescendo. It would be enough to make auds choke on sentimentality, if only that weren’t the reason they bought a ticket in the first place.

In a move to underline the story’s bona fides, the pic closes with footage of the actual Beam family happily at home. Seeing their smiling faces after everything we’ve witnessed may not prove the existence of miracles, but it’s sure to galvanize true believers to spread the word and boost the bottom line.

Film Review: 'Miracles From Heaven'

Reviewed at the Grove, Los Angeles, March 14, 2016. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 109 MIN.

Production

A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Columbia Pictures presentation in association with Affirm Films of a Roth Films/T.D. Jakes/Franklin Entertainment production. Produced by Joe Roth, T.D. Jakes, DeVon Franklin. Executive producers, Matthew Hirsch, Derrick Williams, Zack Roth.

Crew

Directed by Patricia Riggen. Screenplay, Randy Brown, based on the book by Christy Beam. Camera (color, HD), Checco Varese; editor, Emma E. Hickox; music, Carlo Siliotto; production designer, David R. Sandefur; art director, Doug Fick; set decorator, Brana Rosenfeld; costume designer, Mary Jane Fort; sound (Dolby Digital), Jay Meagher; supervising sound editors, Odin Benitez, Mark P. Stoeckinger; re-recording mixers, Kevin O'Connell, Tony Lamberti; visual effects, Spin VFX; stunt coordinator, Garrett Warren; assistant director, Benita Allen; second unit camera, Joshua Turner; casting, Sheila Jaffe, Justine Hempe.

With

Jennifer Garner, Kylie Rogers, Martin Henderson, John Carroll Lynch, Eugenio Derbez, Queen Latifah, Brighton Sharbino, Courtney Fansler, Wayne Pere, Bruce Altman, Kelly Collins Lintz, Hannah Alligood.

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  1. I loved this movie,, it was so sad that children go thru this horrible sickness or ANY sickness, it is reality that some of us need to be reminded of, AND how lucky we are to have healthy children.

  2. Seerik says:

    Movies like this really irk me. The whole premise was the Beam’s child was saved while the other child died because she didn’t have faith. How can people believe this garbage? How many children who have faith die everyday? The idea that people like the Beam’s believe their child was saved by a miracle from God disgusts me from the point of view they somehow think they are special and worthy while others are not. Pathetic!

    • TheTallKnowItAll says:

      That was not the message one bit. The Beams girl actually wanted to die and wasn’t afraid but according to her “God” told her she was not finished on Earth and that’s why she was spared. It was never even implied that her strong faith is why she was spared. Nobody knows. As for the little girl in the hospital, that part was made up for the movie and didnt happen in real life but her death in the movie was not to symbolize that the weak of faith will die as a punishment. As her father said, after meeting the Beam girl she no longer feared death and would accept it when her time came. So basically the only point of the other little girl who died of cancer was to show she took comfort in believing there was a God and afterlife. I am not a religious person but you can’t deny that something extraordinary happened here when a 7 year old falls 30 feet down a tree on her HEAD and not only doesn’t she suffer any head or neck injuries but she is cured from TWO INCURABLE DEADLY DIGESTIVE DISEASES. That’s definitely a story worth telling.

  3. Deanna says:

    I have never been disappointed about going to see a movie that a critic has maligned, especially one who thinks he knows what he is talking about. It still amazes me how god can show people the right way to heaven and they still get lost. Jesus came down to show you, you can still lead a righteous life here on earth, yet there are still those who think Satan doesn’t exist. It is very unfortunate that these people are going to find out the truth when its to late, me personally; I would rather die believing in god and find out there is no heaven, then die not believing in him and find out there is.

  4. Ashley P. says:

    I was very surprised by the acting skills by all the actors…not just by the big stars but the lesser known as well. The movie was very touchy and me and my husband really enjoyed it. I pray that the critic will experience the love of God and know that miracles do exist. I pray that your heart will be forever changed. Be blessed.

  5. carol says:

    I feel your editor is anti-Christian. Perhaps if I was uneducated and unable to make my own decisions, I would take his word.
    I ask the question, who wouldnt want to see a movie that gives us hope and shows us the love of a family? Do we not have enough garbage thrown at us each day that we deserve to believe? Dare to have hope?

  6. Mac White says:

    This movie was amazing and for all the people who are critisising it you should realize that if this was your daughter or son you would be devastated. so stop posting all of these mean comments because you never know what can happen inyour life, it just might come and bite you in the butt.

  7. Janine Rozelle says:

    Great Movie – GOD is Awesome 😇

  8. Dennis Davis says:

    This critic is extremely bias and it shows, if you can’t deliver an unbiased report then it’s time to find another line of work!!

  9. This was an awesome movie, and I enjoyed it very much. The critic who wrote this will someday meet our God and it may be too late for him to believe in miracles. I pray for his soul. This movie had NO foul language or references, and it was a pleasure to sit through. The message of miracles needs to be widened to open the eyes of non-believers! The doctor in this movie was also wonderful, we need more doctors like him.

  10. Miracles From Heaven was an inspiring true story. In addition to being grateful that this little girl was miraculously healed, this movie helps us see that we need to trust the instincts that Christ gives us. We need to be prayerful about being open to assist others when led, so God can do miracles in the lives of others.

  11. Ron Swaim says:

    If it had been about an atheist or global warming you would have given it 100%. The media is out of control.

  12. Barry Burchfield says:

    After reading this review, I find myself surprised not at all by the critics loathing of anything related to decency and his condescending attitude toward people of faith. Simply put: he reminds me of the character who lost his daughter to cancer while talking to the mother in the hall of the hospital. He was polite but preferred that the daughter not fill his daughters head with false hope. His alternative is no hope. I’ll cling to my “false one”. I’m not angered by you, I pity you.

  13. RC says:

    I understand being a critic but it feels that this reporter is giving us his feeling on religion. I didn’t think reporters were suppose to write based on their own feelings. Keep your feelings and religious views out of your story.

  14. D. Wilkins says:

    So sorry this critic feels this movie is middling and people shouldn’t waste their time seeing it “IF miracles happen all the time”. Does he realize he himself is a miracle? Every bone in his body, every body part functioning so he can live and breathe! He should thank God everyday. Would he rather watch our politicians argue and act like 4 year olds? My opinion seeing hope instead helplessness is better.

  15. timothy bradberry says:

    If you listen to the critics the only movies you’ll be seeing are the one’s that only connect with their out of touch with reality lives, I choose to believe in God and that life is a miracle from birth to death, and the choices I make in it shall affect me eternally, I choose grace and salvation from my LORD.

    • Zulaika Reyes says:

      I believe in God who is are father, hope, and savior. and my ever thing. Some time I don’t follow what he want because of the evil earth we live on but praying to him makes my life a whole lot better. Amen

  16. JM Kayne says:

    Highly recommended! 

  17. resa scott tusa says:

    Believe in god and Faith.resa

  18. Kat says:

    Believers will understand and appreciate this movie. I need to say nothing else.

  19. Earl Gibbs says:

    “Miracles from Heaven” is a great film. I’m grateful that the Beam family had the courage to share a very personal and sacred experience with the world. It is my belief that some are allowed or commanded by God to return to mortality after passing through the portal of death for the express purpose of inspiring hope and faith in seekers of truth.

  20. kathym says:

    Saw it this afternoon, very worth watching. Theater was packed and not a dry eye in it,

  21. I love this movie – didn’t expect that good!

  22. justahunch says:

    You couldn’t pay me to see this. Well actually, that might cause me to see it if the figure was good enough.

  23. Fay says:

    Saw this movie last night and it was the most awesome inspiring movie I’ve seen in a long time in a world full of so much negativity I can only have good thoughts on this movie. Truly worth watching and I consider a must see.

  24. artzylady says:

    My reason for wanting to see this film is more about the ‘medical miracle’ and not the ‘heaven is for real’ aspect, although I am a Christian. The hook that got me interested was how this child was cured after sustaining a head injury. How freaky is that? I’ll admit sentimentality does play a role, but that isn’t the main reason I’ll be buying a ticket to see this film, as the author suggests.

  25. RockyP.Johnson says:

    Colton Burpo, the boy from ‘Heaven Is for Real’, says his story is true. It was someone else who has said that his own (different) story, about dying and coming back, wasn’t actually true. Colton Burpo’s story didn’t involve him dying; he had a near-death experience, and he maintains he had a trip to Heaven during it. Interesting! And a good film too.

  26. Beau Martin says:

    This movie and story is NOT TRUE just like the last one where the little boy admitted it didn’t happen… READ UR BIBLE AND U WILL UNDERSTAND WHY IT ISNT TRUE…

    • Dennis Davis says:

      You’re wrong it is based on a true story!

      • D.b.bury says:

        Dennis how do you know it’s true? Pure speculation.if you read any of apostle Paul’s epistles an study you’ll know this is impossible.satans work is visible if you wish hard enough,Gods time is not our time would she be better off dying for heaven

  27. JJK says:

    JJ needs to do the Alias movie ASAP. I love Jennifer Garner more than I will ever love you know, the man she was married to.

  28. Artiewhitfox says:

    Don’t people learn? Heaven needs to be in us. They will be like Jesus who is good to people. Saying die with a smile is not being good to a person.

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