Breakthrough

I seem to have made a mistake. I thought Avengers: Endgame came out this weekend. When I bought my tickets for it (as early as I had bought tickets for any movie), I could have sworn they were for this past Saturday. Thus I knew I was setting myself up for a busy Saturday of helping with an Easter egg hunt at the parish I work at, then Avengers, and then the Easter Vigil Mass. But hey, Holy Week, right? Then, to my surprise, I began seeing ads that said it will be in theaters next Friday. Weird. Thus I went to see Breakthrough on Good Friday.

I realize that my tenure as a movie reviewer is still not a long one, but many have asked me why I have not seen Unplanned. To be clear, as a serious, practicing Catholic, I am a fervent supporter of the Pro Life Movement. Then again, given my stated beliefs, such an admission probably shocks no one. Thus I am not sure what I could really say about the movie, even without seeing it, other than I agree with it. Also, I did not see it on its opening weekend, and I intend to keep this blog fresh by only reviewing movies within days of their release. To be sure, I will see Unplanned at some point, but in the meantime I offer you this review of Breakthrough.

Breakthrough is the story of fourteen year old John Smith’s (Marcel Ruiz) fight to stay alive after falling through the ice of a frozen lake and staying underwater for fifteen minutes. He is the adopted son of Joyce Smith (Chrissy Metz) and Brian Smith (Josh Lucas), a family that is committed to their Christian faith. The movie makes it apparent that it was the power of prayer that was most responsible for John’s survival. How else does one explain a kid living without breathing for forty-five minutes?

You can doubt that, of course. The idea that somebody can be saved with what amounts to simply positive thoughts (to some) can border on the absurd. However, the events of Breakthrough struck home to me in a personal way. A couple years ago a family that I am close to had a young daughter who fell into a pool and was found there, face down, floating motionless. When emergency medical services arrived, they basically said she was dead. Her uncle, a priest, arrived at the hospital as they were about to perform a procedure to save the little girl’s life. He prayed over the doctor’s hands and she lived.

Prayer is a real thing, and God listens to each one. Yet one might ask why (if there is a God), why God would let John Smith or this little girl live and not other people in similar situations. Breakthrough provides a beautiful and simple answer to this question: control. For Joyce, it was not until she realized that her son’s life was not in her hands, despite all her prayers and demands for positivity from those around her, that God could truly work. It would have been amazing if John had simply lived. But it is by surrendering to God’s will that everyone involved is truly saved. I mean that in every sense of the word.

On a slightly sour note, I could not help but think back to my viewing of Us. Indicative of what critics thought of Jordan Peele’s latest movie is the following from Dann Gire of the Chicago Daily Herald: “The most frightening element has less to do with its operatic violence than its stunner suggestion as to who the film’s true villains might be. It’s a double delight.” Meanwhile, compare that to what they said of Breakthrough: “Another glib and unconvincing faith based movie that pushes miracles, spirituality and divine intervention, hoping for box-office gold,” noted Rex Reed of the Observer. I would point to the celebration of violence in the former, and the panning of wholesomeness in the latter. Our society is truly upside down. Us disturbed me. Breakthrough moved me to tears. If you want to feel like there is no hope for society, go ahead and watch Us. But if you would prefer to be uplifted by the power of Faith (or faith) to unite disparate peoples, then Breakthrough has my highest recommendation.

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