“Breakthrough” is a faith-based story of Missouri family rocked by a tragedy that turned into medical miracle. It was all because of the unshakable faith of the mother. Based on a true story from 2015, a young adopted son fell into an icy river and was submerged for over 20 minutes. But the faith and prayers of his mother seemed to bring him back to life at the hospital. The family struggle is depicted in a very straight-forward and moving way.
Joyce Smith (Chrissy Metz) and her husband Brian Smith (Josh Lucas) have an adopted son named John (Marcel Ruiz). They are very involved with their local church. Joyce and Brian went on a mission trip to Guatemala where they adopted John. Joyce has loved John with a fierce protective nature, even when he would rather ignore her feelings. He is a star player on the basketball team, and the family attends church every Sunday. Joyce is not happy with the new leader, Pastor Jason Noble (Topher Grace). She likes more traditional ways, and Pastor Jason is there to shake things up. Joyce still will not call him by his first name, and she hates his 90’s boy band style haircut.
Over a long weekend in February, John and his friends go over to the frozen lake in the town and are goofing around on the ice. The ice suddenly breaks, and the boys are in the icy water. The Fire Department rescue people show up quickly, but by then John Smith has sunk down into the murky depths. A water rescue EMT named Tommy (Mike Colter) is in the water, about to give up on the search – but he hears a voice telling him to “Go back”. He tries again, and finds the body of John underwater. John is brought to the ER, and the doctors are unable to revive his lifeless body.
Joyce is beside herself when she gets to the hospital. She is allowed time with John, until they need to take his body to the morgue. She prays and cries and prays and yells and prays for God to answer her prayer. John’s pulse revives and he is a weak condition. But John is still alive, so they rush him to the Children’s Hospital. A specialist is there named Dr. Garrett (Dennis Haysbert), and he has treated many drowning patients. But there has never been a patient who had been underwater for so long. John might survive, but he could have severe mental difficulties. Brian Smith is so distraught that he cannot be in the hospital room. But Pater Jason shows up to support Johan, and especially Joyce.
Dr. Garrett has put John into an induced coma, so that his body can adjust to trauma that he has gone through. Many of the nurses and other doctors openly speak about John’s condition is tenuous, and that Joyce and Brian should prepare for the inevitable. Joyce is a fierce Mama Grizzly, and she chastises anyone who does not believe that John will be OK. Her strength, which can sometimes turn into pig-headedness, is overwhelming. She finally breaks down and realizes that Pastor Jason is doing the right thing, and she accepts him. She has some medical issues herself, but is strong enough to be a powerful voice for John. She wants the doctors to give him a chance to fight on his own, and orders him taken out of the induced coma.
At the moment of greatest need, Joyce unites her church and her community with enough faith and power to see John back from the dead. Even medical EMT Tommy comes by to tell Joyce that he heard a voice that day to ‘Go back’. But it was not his Fire Chief, or any other human voice that told him to do that. Tommy is not a religious man, but he says that he knows that there is someone above looking out for John. The people from church sign outside of John’s window at the hospital to show their support. So, will John make a ‘Breakthrough’?
Given that a story such as this could be very predicable and could turn very mawkish, the level of acting and direction raises it up to higher standard. You actually do start to care for the predicament that Smith family find themselves in. The human and emotional honesty with the characters turns it into a very uplifting and heartwarming story. Chrissy Metz is a large woman, but she needs to be to contain the size of her heart. Her performance was really emotional and true. Topher Grace is also really good in his role. Dennis Haysbert has the type of gravitas to pull off the role of an experienced Doctor. You just wish that he would turn to Joyce when John is put into the hospital room and tell her – “He’s in Good Hands”…
All in all, it is strong contender for a wide and positive audience reception, even outside a faith-based community. There is a little bit of a play on words with the title of the movie, “Breakthrough”. It could stand for the time when the boys ‘break though’ the ice of the river. But it could also be reflective of the medical ‘break though’ when John recovers. God Only Knows…