This could be the first faith-based film to truly cross over and find both critical acclaim and a mainstream audience beyond just the church-going crowd. And there have been a lot of them lately which have opened with varying degrees of success, from cheesy bombs like “Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas” and the Nicolas Cage version of “Left Behind” to films that have been box-office hits (if not critical ones) like “God’s Not Dead” and “Heaven Is for Real.”
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Miracles from Heaven (2016)
Based on the incredible true story of the Beam family.
Miracles from Heaven is a 2016 American Christian drama film directed by Patricia Riggen and written by Randy Brown. It is based on Miracles from Heaven by Christy Beam, which recounts the true story of her young daughter who had a near-death experience and was later cured of an incurable disease.
The film stars Jennifer Garner, Kylie Rogers, Martin Henderson, John Carroll Lynch, Eugenio Derbez, and Queen Latifah. Principal photography began in Atlanta, Georgia, in July 2015. The film was released on March 16, 2016. The movie was financially successful, becoming the 8th highest-grossing Christian film in the United States. Although critical reception was mixed, Garner’s performance earned general praise.
Miracles from Heaven (2016) Trailer
Miracles from Heaven (2016) Reviews
Much of what makes the film work is its emotionally demanding performance from the ever-accessible Jennifer Garner. She gets a big arc to work within, revealing warmth and vulnerability, grit and determination as Christy. She asks all the existential questions any of us would in the midst of such a faith-testing trauma.
Faith is, of course, the crucial component here: the mystery of it, the need for it and—ultimately—the validation of it. From the title alone, it’s clear that faith will win out in the end. But the journey there takes some turns that feel (mostly) honest and true, which should make the movie universally relatable despite the unique and specific troubles the Beam family faced.
The trailer pretty much tells the whole story, so there will be no spoilers here. But because we know what will happen at the outset, the challenge for director Patricia Riggen is finding a source of tension to keep us emotionally engaged. (Riggen tackled a similar prospect with last year’s “The 33,” based on the true story of the Chilean miners who survived 69 days while trapped underground.) Her approach, which is non-fussy and intimate, relies on the power of the human drama and its significant stakes.
At the film’s start, 10-year-old Anna (Kylie Rogers, showing not the slightest trace of child-actor precociousness) is the middle child of three daughters in a loving and devoutly Christian home in Burleson, Texas, just south of Fort Worth. She’s a smart, confident kid with a passion for books and a yearning to visit Paris.
But out of nowhere one night, she’s violently vomiting, which leads to massive stomach pain, which leads to various doctors telling Christy and her veterinarian husband, Kevin (Martin Henderson), that it’s lactose intolerance or acid reflux or something else that’s minor and treatable.
From there, it’s a non-stop back-and-forth between Texas and Boston, with some painful moments involving feeding tubes as well as heavenly imagery of sunlight piercing fluffy, white clouds or the water where majestic creatures swim at the New England Aquarium. (The film’s cinematographer, Checco Varese, is Riggen’s husband.) “Miracles From Heaven” wisely and efficiently depicts the toll Anna’s illness is taking on this once-idyllic home, with Kevin struggling to make ends meet and generally holding down the fort while Christy and Anna are away every six weeks.
Back in Boston, an unlikely friendship the mother and daughter strike up with a big-hearted waitress (Queen Latifah) would seem like a facile method of injecting comic relief—except it really happened. But this bond, and several other acts of kindness that are revealed along the way, play neatly into the film’s central notion that miracles are everywhere, in the smallest, kindest gestures, which isn’t exactly the worst message a movie can convey.
One of the most poignant scenes is also one of the most understated as Anna and the young girl in the hospital bed next to her (Hannah Alligood), who’s battling cancer, discuss whether they’re afraid of dying. The directness on display in Randy Brown’s script, and in later scenes when Anna suffers from depression and Christy acknowledges that her faith is so shattered that she can’t even pray anymore, represents a welcome balance of emotion and tone.
The branch they’re sitting on gives way and she dives into the tree’s hollow trunk for safety, only to plummet 30 feet to the ground and land on her head. Again, this is all in the trailer—and in the book—but in a seemingly implausible twist, not only does Anna survive the drop without a scratch, she’s cured of her intestinal disease.
She also emerges from the debacle with a vivid story about leaving her body and going to heaven, a place so vibrantly, colorfully pastoral you’ll swear you’ve seen it in countless commercials for allergy medication. (Visual effects are not the film’s strong suit.) There, God has told her she’ll be fine, and she should go home to her family. Impossible? Maybe. But the film suggests that you can interpret this magical moment in any way you like, depending on your beliefs and needs—and that’s sort of miraculous in itself.
Miracles from Heaven (2016) Credits
Miracles from Heaven (2016)
Jennifer Garner as Christy Beam
Kylie Rogers as Anna Beam
Martin Henderson as Kevin Beam
Brighton Sharbino as Abbie Beam
Courtney Fansler as Adelynn Beam
Queen Latifah as Angela
Eugenio Derbez as Dr. Nurko
Kelly Collins Lintz as Emmy
John Carroll Lynch as Pastor Scott
- Patricia Riggen
- Christy Beam
- Randy Brown
- Checco Varese
- Emma E. Hickox
- Carlo Siliotto
Miracles from Heaven (2016) Plot
Set in Burleson, Texas, between 2007 and 2012, the film centers on little girl Anna (Kylie Rogers), daughter of Christy Beam (Jennifer Garner). One day, Anna starts to vomit, and when examined by her doctor, he does not find anything abnormal. On March 20, 2008, Anna wakes up her family at midnight due to intense stomach pain, severe enough so her parents take her to the hospital. Doctors find no signs of illness, perhaps either acid reflux, or lactose intolerance, but Christy is incredulous.
The following morning, Christy finally finds a pediatrician in the hospital able to diagnose Anna with an abdominal obstruction, and he tells them he must operate immediately or she will die. After emergency surgery, the doctor explains that Anna has been left with intestinal pseudo-obstruction and she is unable to eat, so feeding tubes are needed for her nutrition.
The doctor then tells the Beams about America’s foremost pediatric gastroenterologist, Dr. Samuel Nurko (Eugenio Derbez) in Boston, but explains it could take months for them to be seen. In January 2009, Christy and Anna travel to Boston despite not having an appointment with him.
Dr. Nurko has a last minute opening, and when Anna is subsequently examined at Boston Children’s Hospital, the extent of her chronic illness is found. She then goes through extensive treatment. During this ordeal, Anna and her mother befriend local Massachusetts resident Angela Bradford (Queen Latifah), as well as Ben (Wayne Péré) and his daughter, Haley (Hannah Alligood) who has terminal cancer.
On December 29, 2011, Anna and her bigger sister Abbie (Brighton Sharbino), climb up to a very high branch of an old cotton tree. While on the branch, it begins to break. Anna goes to the trunk for safety, whereupon stepping on it, she falls into the hollowed out center to the base of the tree.
When Christy finds out what happened, she desperately calls her husband Kevin (Martin Henderson), as well as the fire department. Anna is then rescued by the firefighters, who warn Christy to expect the worst, saying that nobody could fall 30 feet without sustaining a serious injury, broken bones or paralysis. Once out, Anna is airlifted to a hospital, where a battery of tests are run, and all of them come back negative. Other than a minor concussion, Anna is uninjured.
Sometime after the fall, Anna seems to no longer be affected by her illness. When Christy and Anna go to an appointment with Dr. Nurko, he tells Christy that she is miraculously cured. Anna then recounts with her parents her experience during the fall. She describes how her soul left her body during the fall, and God promised that she would be cured of her illness upon her return to Earth.
At church, Christy shares the story of how God miraculously healed her daughter with His love. As Christy finishes her speech, one of the congregation protests, stating that he does not believe her. Ben, who has traveled from Boston upon hearing the story about Anna, believes her. He also shares that Haley died peacefully as Anna gave her faith when in the hospital (Anna is saddened by this news because Haley was a dear friend).
In the end, the Beams spend some quality time together and Christy says to always believe in miracles.
Miracles from Heaven (2016) Box office
Miracles from Heaven grossed $61.7 million in North America and $12.2 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $73.9 million, against a budget of $13 million.
The film grossed $1.9 million on its first day, finishing second at the box office behind Zootopia ($4.6 million). The film had an $18 million Wednesday-to-Sunday gross, including $14.8 million in its opening weekend, finishing third at the box office behind Zootopia ($37.2 million) and The Divergent Series: Allegiant ($29 million).
On its opening weekend in the United Kingdom, Miracles from Heaven grossed $29 thousand, dropping to $231 by week four.
Miracles from Heaven (2016) Critical Response
Miracles from Heaven received generally mixed reviews from critics, with Garner’s performance receiving praise. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 45%, based on 93 reviews, with an average rating of 5.10/10. The site’s consensus reads, “Miracles from Heaven makes the most out of an outstanding performance from Jennifer Garner, but it isn’t quite enough to keep this faith-based drama from preaching to the choir.
“On Metacritic the film has a score of 44 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews”. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “A+” on an A+ to F scale.
Miracles from Heaven (2016) Accolades
|People’s Choice Awards||Favorite Dramatic Movie||Miracles from Heaven||Nominated|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie: Drama||Miracles from Heaven||Won|
|Choice Movie Actress: Drama||Jennifer Garner||Nominated|
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