Based on a true story whose beginning, middle and end was covered by news outlets around the world, the film “Breakthrough” takes audiences on a passionate journey of heartbreak, self-discovery, faith, hope, love and a modern-day, within-this-decade miracle.
It tells the story of then-14-year-old John Smith, who, on Martin Luther King Jr. day in 2015, fell through the ice of Lake St. Louis while playing with his friends. For 15 minutes, he was underwater, and though he was rescued, he did not have a heartbeat for 45 minutes.
The 20th Century Fox film, based on the book “The Impossible”, written by Joyce Smith, John’s mother; shows us what it was like to be John, love John and witness his accident, resurrection and full recovery, which was 16 days later.
The opening song, a fan favorite by hitmaker Bruno Mars, sets the tone for the film, taking viewers back to life four years ago, offering a sense that we will be experiencing each moment in real time. From the start, we get a glimpse into John Smith, Joyce Smith, and his father Brian Smith’s life.
None of the Smiths are depicted as “flawless” people, though the performances of both Chrissy Metz (“This is Us”) as Joyce and Marcel Ruiz (“One Day at a Time”) as John are impeccable. Just as impressive are Josh Lucas (“Sweet Home Alabama”) as Brian, Topher Grace (“Spider-Man 3”) as their pastor, Jason Noble, Mike Colter (“Luke Cage”) as Tommy Shine and Dennis Haysbert (“24”, “The Dark Tower”) as Doctor Garrett.
Audiences get an intimate portrait of who John was pre-accident, particularly his insecurities surrounding how and why, being Guatemalan, he became a part of the Smith family, plus how the way he sees himself impacts his life. His practical father Brian struggles with what God will, won’t, can’t or can do; and Joyce is a mother-bear who protects her son at all costs, even if it means using her frustration to make others do the same.
As Metz and Ruiz’s feature film debuts, “Breakthrough” is a solid testament to their ability to maintain the energy required to carry a movie that is almost two hours long. Both captured Joyce and John’s essences, feelings; and the weight and complexity of the would-be tragedy gracefully. The heart they bring to their roles encourages the audience to forget what they know about the story and focus on what it was like to live it. Moviegoers will feel everything the duo might have been undergoing, from fear to hope, desperation and joy.
Behind the film is award-winning producer DeVon Franklin (“Miracles from Heaven”; “The Star”), who built his career on motivating and inspiring others, and is also a New York Times Best-Selling author and international speaker. Stephen Curry and Pastor Sammy Rodriguez are executive producers.
Written by Grant Nieporte (“Seven Pounds”), each second of the movie is crafted with intent, care and authenticity, making it a captivating feature film directorial debut for Roxann Dawson (“The Americans”, “House of Cards”), who is also an actor (“Star Trek: Voyager”) and producer (“Scandal”).
Scenes where Pastor Noble gives a sermon encouraging the congregation to evaluate a part of their relationship with God takes more time than needed to make its point, but the message within it is imperative for what is to come.
In several different, meaningful ways, the film offers a peek into prayer. At one point, Joyce faces a fork in the road, and has a conversation with God about everything she is going through. She has to choose whether she is going to try to control what is happening or allow God to do what she asked him to do. After she makes a choice, she immediately has a beautiful experience that could have only been sent from heaven.
Overall, “Breakthrough” sets itself apart from other films focused on faith in that it takes a chunk of real-life and explores it from angles that are often at the foundation of our being – church, service, school, motherhood, community, relationships and self-image.
If audiences are to learn anything, take anything from, believe in anything after watching “Breakthrough”, it is that pain often causes the people in our lives to lash out, or shut down, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of love, or that love can’t save them.
Each person in the theater will try to fight back tears, because they know that today, John is living, breathing and healthy. Scene by scene the film will chisel away shields and expose hearts so love can be poured into and shine through it.
“Breakthrough” is for anyone who believes in love, needs more love, or wants to see what love looks like in action. It is honestly a film that everyone should watch, and it is truly made for such a time as this.
The film was released nationwide on Wednesday, April 17th. View the official trailer here.
Sharee Silerio is a writer, director, producer and blogger. When she isn’t creating for The Root or Curly Nikki, she enjoys sharing her journey to discover wisdom, become whole and fulfill her dreams at SincerelySharee.com. Get a glimpse of her #BlackGirlMagic via ShareeSilerio.com then connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter