Miracles from Heaven

Posted on March 15, 2016 at 10:11 am

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for thematic material, including accident and medical issues
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Serious illness and peril involving children, sad death (offscreen)
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: March 16, 2016
Date Released to DVD: July 11, 2016
Amazon.com ASIN: B01D1U6V58
Copyright Sony Pictures Entertainment 2016
Copyright Sony Pictures Entertainment 2016

Christy Wilson Beam’s book title says it all: Miracles from Heaven: A Little Girl and Her Amazing Story of Healing. In the book, she tells the story of her daughter Annabel, critically ill with an incurable digestive disorder, who fell thirty feet from a tree branch. Incredibly, she was not injured. And even more incredibly, possibly even miraculously, she was cured.

All of this happens in the trailer, and the movie’s biggest challenge is that the entire story is not much more than that.

A happy, loving family is catapulted into crisis when their sweet-natured daughter becomes ill. It takes a long time to get the right diagnosis, and then it takes a long time to see the only doctor who may be able to help them. And then she gets sicker and sicker and the family is under more and more pressure. And then she climbs the tree and falls. The rest, despite the best efforts of the always-appealing Jennifer Garner, mostly seems like so much padding. So, so much padding.

Just to make sure we didn’t miss the title’s reminder of where miracles come from, we are told right at the beginning what a miracle is: not explainable by natural or scientific laws. And then we meet the Beam family, as adorable as the ray of sunlight of their name, living a life somewhere between a country song and a Hallmark commercial. Everyone is beautiful, loving, patient, and trusting in God. There are sun-dappled vistas and cute animals. They have a kindly preacher, played with warmth and good humor by John Carroll Lynch.

And then Annabel (a very sweet Kylie Rogers), the middle of their three daughters, gets sick. At first, doctors reassure them that it is a minor problem like lactose intolerance, but it turns out to be a major digestive disorder that distends her stomach and makes it impossible for her to eat.

They are told that there is just one doctor in Boston who may be able to help her, but he is so busy they cannot get an appointment. Desperate, Christy (Garner) brings Annabelle to Boston, goes to the doctor’s office, and begs for a chance to see him. While they wait, they meet a kind-hearted waitress (Queen Latifah in a role that verges on uncomfortably confined to quirky comic relief) who gives them a tour of the city (more padding), until they get a call that the doctor is available. Dr. Durko (an engaging Eugenio Derbez) has a great Patch Adams-style bedside manner, but his diagnosis is a heartbreaking one. Annabel is hospitalized, and shares a room with another very sick little girl, who is comforted by Annabel’s reassurance of God’s love and protection.

And then, back at home, Annabel climbs an old dead tree and falls 30 feet inside.

The most touching and inspiring part of the film is not the “miracle” cure of a fall that somehow caused no serious injuries and rebooted the part of Annabel’s brain that was not telling her digestive system how to work. It is when Christy thinks back and realizes how many miracles the family has experienced through kindness and compassion.

Parents should know that this film is about a very sick little girl and includes scenes of illness, with a sad (offscreen) death.

Family discussion: Why did some of the women in the congregation blame Christy? What tested the family’s faith most? Which moments of kindness meant the most to the family?

If you like this, try: “Heaven is for Real”

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Based on a book Based on a true story DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Illness, Medicine, and Health Care Spiritual films
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