4 Stars – Inspiring
Few films explore the nature of faith more authentically than Patricia Riggen’s film Miracles from Heaven. Based on the true story of the miraculous, medically-verified healing of Anna Beam (Kylie Rogers), her journey from incurable disease to asymptomatic cure is as moving as it is miraculous.
Based on the book by her mother Christy (Jennifer Garner) and adapted for the screen by Randy Brown, the story would be too unbelievable if it were fiction. From the rare and fatal disease to the fall into a hollow tree that caused the healing, to the presence of an angel named Angela (Queen Latifah), to the disbelief and struggle of all involved as well as the skepticism of Christians in their own church, the truth is truly more inspiring than fiction. When you add the verified diagnosis and asymptomatic post-healing testing by Dr. Nurko (Eugenio Derbez), the leading physician in the United States in treating this disease, the story is more than a film experience, it is a journey of faith.
As a pastoral counselor (Denny), I find this journey so authentic that it could be used as a case study for pastors who walk with people on similar journeys as I have done for 40 years. The film’s portrayal of the struggles to pray, to attend church, the insensitivity of other parishioners, the moment of tragedy where prayer is the only sensible response, the disbelief even in the face of miracles, the struggle with a loving God who allows death and pain, in each of these, the film magnifies and expresses both the mystery and the majesty of faith. Though the church scenes and sermons are truncated, the worship and celebration of faith is also authentic.
In addition to the authentic presentation of Christian faith journeys, the film rings true to family life. Christy’s husband, Kevin (Martin Henderson), is believably presented as the only male in a female household and a Christian man who lives his faith in community and profession. The struggle between Kevin and Christy that depicts the tension produced by the prolonged and terminal disease of a child is well presented, as is the sibling rivalry within the family. With sensitivity, Anna’s sisters Abby (Brighton Sharbino) and Adelynn (Courtney Fansler) are believably immature in their attempt to connect with her.
As has been known since Jesus did his first miracles, the fact that a miracle occurred does not always lead to a response of faith. Often such a setting aside of the laws of nature causes people to only question God more since such miracles don’t happen every time a child struggles with the pain of a terminal disease. Similarly, when Anna claims to have gone to heaven and “talked” to Jesus, for those of us who have a deep personal relationship with him have little question that this occurred since we do so regularly, but those who have never experienced such a personal connection with him simply remain in their doubt. They will, as Anna simply says, come to that moment of belief when they are ready.
Since there are few films that reach this level of authentic faith, we highly recommend it both for the already faithful and the seeker. If you are open to experiencing the larger reality that is life beyond life, then this film will help you experience once more the Easter reality when Jesus came to demonstrate that death is not the end, nor can it hold us captive. With Christians throughout the world, this truth that billions of us believe changes every day of our lives.
- In your own faith journey, what have been the moments that influenced you most? How has your faith grown stronger or weaker in those experiences?
- The fact that even Christians find it hard to believe in miracles is most basic in the doubts of Thomas when Jesus arose from the dead. Thomas said that unless he touched the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side, he would not believe that he had come back from death. Similarly, there were those in Anna’s church who questioned whether she was really that sick. Why do you think doubts are often our first response to the miracles of life?
- Christy’s testimony to her church after the healing of her daughter noted that all of life is really miraculous, from the goodness and love of family, church and neighbors, to the forgiveness and reconciliation that occurs among us. Do you experience the gratitude of a miraculous, forgiven life? And if not, how do you live in both good and bad times?