leans toward a biblical worldview
|Faith and/or Biblical Relevance|
|Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships|
|Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations|
|Family Viewing Suitability|
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Arriving in theaters nationwide on March 16, 2016, MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN is the third faith-driven film in two years to hit the market in what some have dubbed the “heaven tourism” genre. Based on the true story of young Anna Beam’s miraculous healing from an incurable disease following a freak accident, MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN follows the 2014 book by her mother, Christy Beam, "Miracles from Heaven: A Little Girl, Her Journey to Heaven, and Her Amazing Story of Healing."
Produced by Joe Roth, T.D. Jakes and DeVon Franklin, this Sony/Columbia Pictures film is directed by Patricia Riggen (THE 33) and stars Jennifer Garner ("Alias," DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, JUNO) as Christy Beam, a mother who fiercely advocates for her sick daughter, Martin Henderson ("Grey’s Anatomy," EVEREST), as Kevin Beam, the hard-working father and provider for his family, Queen Latifah (ICE AGE, CHICAGO) as Angela Bradford, a waitress who befriends the Beams in Boston, Eugenio Derbez ("Anger Management") as medical specialist Dr. Nurko, and Kylie Rogers as the Beam’s young daughter, Anna.
Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance
In a world that is skeptical about the supernatural intervention of God in the lives of ordinary humans, MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN presents the story of Anna Beam’s apparent healing from a seemingly incurable disease with a grim prognosis—a miracle that mystified the medical community. Along the way, hard questions are raised as Christy wrestles with doubt and hurtful accusations from fellow church members—sparking a crisis of faith as she struggles to understand why a loving God would allow her precious, young daughter to suffer so greatly.
While some viewers may be concerned from a theological perspective about the hint of universalism depicted in Anna’s experience of heaven, MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN clearly shows God’s unfailing love and comfort in the midst of a health crisis that deeply impacted a family, church and community. With the call to live every day as if it’s a miracle, this faith-building film also conveys the message that “walking with God feels better than walking without him”—offering hope to both Christians and non-believers alike.
Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships
The Beam family in MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN is depicted as a close-knit, loving family. They attend church regularly and Christy prays with their three daughters before bedtime. Kevin Beam is a veterinarian who works hard to provide for his family and is willing to make personal sacrifices when Anna’s condition worsens and the medical bills threaten to crush them. And while the ongoing challenges associated with Anna’s illness bring inevitable and understandable strains on Kevin and Christy’s marriage and their ability to focus on the needs of all three children, they work hard to communicate well and remain unified as they shift the work load and balance priorities. Even Anna’s sisters show support and solidarity for her—despite the fact that the family focus is almost exclusively on Anna.
As Anna’s health deteriorates, Kevin’s faith remains rock solid while Christy’s wavers—particularly after a painful incident at church in which some members of the congregation suggest that Anna’s mysterious illness is caused by sin. After talking to the pastor, Christy vows to stop attending church and pours herself into the role of protective mother and unwavering advocate for her daughter’s wellbeing. Although Kevin tries to encourage her, Christy says she doesn’t have faith and can no longer pray to God or hear Him.
Beyond the Beam family, there are faith-compatible scenes in which the church comes together to pray for Anna and waitress Angela Bradford befriends Christy and Anna who are far away from home in Boston—bringing joy and hope to otherwise low moments. And some of the most poignant scenes in the film center on the relationships between Anna and her hospital roommate, Haley, and Christy and Haley’s dad, Ben Wexler, as they navigate the challenging topic of hope and faith in the midst of terminal illness. Here, Anna easily shares her faith with Haley and Christy responds to Ben’s concerns with gentleness and grace.
Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations
MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN presents two distinct situations which come together and point to the goodness of God and His sovereignty. In the first set of circumstances, Anna’s rare and incurable Intestinal Motility Disorder is increasingly debilitating and likely terminal. Hope is fading and Anna wants to go to heaven—where there is no more pain.
In the second situation, a hard-won and temporary period of stability in her health allows Anna to become an unlikely victim in a freak accident in which she falls head first thirty feet down the hollow center of a dying tree. After a harrowing and dramatic rescue in which Christy cries out to God and the community comes together to pray for the situation, it becomes clear that Anna’s motility disorder is in complete and inexplicable remission—apparently the result of the direct hit to her head in the accident.
Eventually, Anna describes to her parents what appears to have been a near-death experience in which she went to heaven and was told that she will be fine. While Anna’s description of heaven is fairly limited and it’s not clear who spoke to her while there, there’s a hint of theological universalism in this scene that may be problematic for some viewers. Nevertheless, something clearly miraculous has happened with Anna’s health, and follow-up footage of the present-day Beam family indicates that Anna remains healed.
Throughout MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN, the beauty of everyday faith and hope is presented. There is a “no pain, no gain” sermon in which the pastor teaches that faith is the only true shelter in a storm. And big questions like why God heals in some situations but not others are dealt with biblically and honestly—set in the context of God’s love.
Family Viewing Suitability
Running at 109 minutes, MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN is rated PG for thematic material, including accident and medical images. It’s an engaging, family-friendly film that is suitable for children with parental guidance. And while some scenes depicted in the course of Anna’s diagnosis and treatment can be sobering, the sensitive, uplifting and playful depiction of Dr. Nurko at Boston Children’s Hospital—reminiscent of Robin Williams in the 1998 hit film PATCH ADAMS—is refreshing and adds laughter to the story line.
MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN offers moviegoers high production values and a well-written story that is engaging, thought-provoking and tugs at the heart. The emotionally weighty topics of childhood sickness and a near-fatal accident are balanced nicely with humorous elements in Anna and Christy’s relationships with Angela and Dr. Nurko. Standing out among the very capable cast is young Kylie Rogers, who impresses as Anna, and Jennifer Garner, whose performance as Christy is emotionally powerful. And viewers will love the music of Mac Powell and Third Day which is featured throughout the film in church praise and worship scenes and beyond.
While MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN does not clearly show how one gets to heaven or comes to know Jesus, it does tell an inspiring story of an incredible journey from hardship to healing that points to everyday miracles—both small and large—that come from the sovereign hand of God. Faith-driven moviegoers will likely find that this movie meets their desire for solid, family-friendly entertainment options to enjoy and share with family and friends.