Breakthrough Review - A True Story That Delivers Genuine Emotion

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Breakthrough, from Fox 2000 Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox, presents a true story of bold, unwavering, faith amid impossible circumstances as a mother prays her son back from death after he falls through the ice and drowns.

Directed by Roxann Dawson, Breakthrough stars Chrissy Metz, Topher Grace, Josh Lucas, Marcel Ruiz, Sam Trammell, Dennis Haysbert, Mike Colter, Rebecca Staab, Ali Skovbye, Victor Zinck Jr., Stephanie Czajkowski, Taylor Mosby, Issac Kragten, Nikolas Dukic, Chuck Shamata, Maddy Martin, Jordan Kronis, Lecrae, Travis Bryant, Alicia Johnston, Scott Johnson, Lisa Durupt, Logan Creran and Annelise Pollmann and written by Grant Nieporte.

Breakthrough opens with a dream premonition, a forewarning that would be lost on a teenager, as we see John Smith, played by Marcel Ruiz, sinking in a body of water, and somewhere in the distance music (Bruno Mars, Uptown Funk) brings him to the surface. A dream lost to life.


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The door opens and a woman, obviously John’s mother, whom we find out is Joyce Smith, played by Chrissy Metz, reinforces the time. Soon we see Brian Smith, played by Josh Lucas, all gathering for breakfast.

A typical family with John feeding the dog his breakfast and grabbing a slice of cold pizza for breakfast instead, father working and mom, noticing the absence of all the usual details. This morning, as all begin to eat breakfast, she notices no one blessed the food. We find out at this point she has a faith.

A stay at home Mom, she drives her son to school, a Christian school, and the comfortability of their lives unfold. In a town where everyone knows everyone, she and her husband, Brian, are members of the local Pentecostal church along with their son, whom they adopted on a Missionary trip to Guatemala.

The film moves through the minor disturbances in an otherwise smooth and well-maintained life, Joyce is having a difficult time adjusting to the new pastor, Jason Noble, a younger man from California, played by Topher Grace. John is having difficulties facing his family tree report, a star basketball player he rather risk a failing grade than face the unknown of his history.

Martin Luther King day approaches and John is spending the night with two of his friends, the three decide to walk out on the ice, tossing a large rock on the ice first, is seems solid, then they pose for a selfie, suddenly a man yells at them to get off the ice, it isn’t safe, they reply, and in seconds after the warning, they make one step and all three fall in. The scene is jarring.

Two of the boys make it to the surface, one on the ice and the other holding on head above water. John who saved his friend was accidentally kicked in the struggle to escape and he sank. Rescue squads are called. The lake drops off from 10 feet to 25 feet in a matter of inches.


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Counting time, 15 minutes, John has been under the surface. The first responder, Tommy Shine, played by Mike Colter, hears what he believes is his Chief, played by Chuck Shamata, telling him to “go back.” He did and they pull a lifeless John Smith to the surface.

Counting time, its 45 minutes since he fell through the ice, after transporting him to the ER and keeping CPR going, he slowly warmed up and as hard as they tried, they could not get a pulse. After three shocks, the attending called time of death.

Joyce arrives at the hospital, and as she and John have different skin tones, she is first put off and then led to the room to say her “goodbye.” She is distraught and after just a few days before asking her prayer group what they though praying boldly meant, she began to pray simply, from a genuine sincere broken heart. She prays for the Holy Spirit to come upon her son. And in that instant his heart, after one hour of no pulse, no heartbeat, his heart began beating.

What follows is the story of bold faith, and someone who couldn’t bear the loss, and some may have said, a naiveté refusing to see the medical realities. What follows is medical miracle after medical miracle.


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The story is solid. And yes, I do understand it is a true story. The collage during the end credits show the subjects of the story against the actors. The picture the boys took on the ice is also in the collage.

As it is a story of faith, the points of faith will probably be the first to be challenged. Can God perform miracles? Yes. Would be the short answer. The ending of the film when John was faced with question why one, who is seemingly insignificant, is given the miracle.

While Chrissy Metz handled the material well, tackled the emotion, handled the depth and delivered a full range of emotion and has real talent, I feel the casting was an attempt at portraying women physically in proportion to their faith.

The other women in the film were thin and of moderate builds, and their faith was portrayed as thin, and in this time when everyone believed those who seemed to be the experts, she refused to be realistic. Her faith many would say was huge, and see it as a symmetry, large person large faith.

Whatever the final variable, the X factor, in the equation that would sell me wasn’t there. She did well and her portrayal didn’t sell me.


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The cast was truly an ensemble with solid performances across the board. The medical scenes, from the ER to the day to day prognosis and run in’s with medical professionals who only believed in science, were so very well done.

Breakthrough is well written, well-acted, and very well directed. It is a film of resurrection, of second chances, of hope, and of faith. Breakthrough opens April 19, 2019. It is a 21st Century resurrection miracle. It’s a tearjerker. See it.

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