It wrecked me again. Maybe even worse the second time because I know I started weeping earlier this time. Since we saw a pre-release screener in March there was a moment when I knew the inciting incident was imminent. My friend Joseph Holmes was sitting next to me, and after the film was over he said at that point he thought maybe he didn't know the story! He and I both met the pastor of John Smith, who's story Breakthrough tells, last fall at the Hollywood Divine International Film Festival. You can read my notes about that encounter below.
There was a New York Times "Critic's Pick" review of Breakthrough on April 15 that speaks to the quality of the filmmaking, but it ends by saying, "its willingness to let the mystery of the young man’s survival linger enhances the film’s power." When I read that I thought maybe it wasn't as clear as I remembered. Watching it again it is quite clear that John's healing is an absolute miracle. The doctors are floored, and the closing quote as the credits roll is from Dr. Kent Sutterer, who was the attending physician when John's pulse returned: "Boy dies. Mom prays. Boy comes back to life."
If you're interested in knowing Who brought him back to life click here.
Breakthrough last month, and we both thought it was so powerful! It tells the true story of how John Smith (played by Marcel Ruiz of One Day at a Time) fell through ice, where he wasn't recovered for a full fifteen minutes. His brain was without oxygen for a full hour.
After the show there was a panel discussion with Chrissy Metz (This Is Us), who plays the mother of John, DeVon Franklin (Miracles from Heaven, Heaven Is for Real) producer, and Roxann Dawson (This Is Us) director. They were interviewed by David DiCerto of the host venue, The Sheen Center, and introduced by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Dawson said that Joyce Smith, the real mother, told her, "You got it." Though some elements are fictionalized to raise the stakes in the drama, the basic facts of it are absolutely true. Franklin said, "A documentary is the facts, a movie is the truth." Dawson, who expressed great joy in doing a project with a Christian theme said, "Let's use media in the correct way," meaning in ways that point people to the Lord.
HOLLYWOOD DIVINE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL SNEAK PEEK
Hollywood Divine International Film Festival, where I was up for Best Comedic Performance for "All God's Children." But the real highlight for me was meeting Jason Noble, who was the pastor of John. Jason (played by Topher Grace of Spider-Man 3) was in the room when John's mother walked through the door, just as the doctor (played by Sam Trammel of This Is Us) was ready to declare her son's time of death. She called on the Lord and her son's pulse came back. You can see that much in the moving trailer below, but the rest of the story is just as dramatic! It's one miracle after the next, no matter how little hope they're given by the specialist (Dennis Haysbert of 24).
Jason has written a companion book to the film, Breakthrough to Your Miracle. I haven't read the book yet, but Jason is very excited about it can encourage people through examples healing from the Bible and the present. He talks about the principles of prayer they learned by walking through the miracles that are helping John graduate from high school this spring!
Jason told how he was being interviewed on a show for TBN, and the guy in the greenroom struck up a conversation with them. On their way out, after the interview the guy said, "Do you know who I am?" They just assumed he was there to make sure they had what they needed before and after the interview, but it was Devon Franklin. He told them he wanted their story to be his next film. You can hear Devon's version of that story here:
Christian Movie Made by Major Studio is Full of Miracle Stories: Behind the Scenes of BREAKTHROUGH.
During the panel discussion in March, Franklin mentioned that John played Ruiz in a 1-on-1 basketball game. Though his actor won, John declared that there will be a rematch! It reminded me of my friend Art Sanborn, who told his medical support team that, though he was a quadriplegic, one day he'd beat them at basketball. After he was healed, he did play basketball against them! To see who won read his book, A Walking Miracle. I was able to tell Franklin about it after the panel, so join me in praying that Art's story will be his next film!
It's now slated for 2,400 screens across America, opening April 17.
Parental warnings: There were a couple of uses of hell as an expletive, and an OMG. Visit www.Dove.org for more details.
Watch it online and book a live performance.