When Gavin Ashenden announced his conversion to Roman Catholicism...
Lisa Mainwaring explains why the latest Christian film (in UK cinemas from 10th June) is so uplifting
Christian films often rely on an audience who feel obliged to support the Christian film-maker, regardless of the movie's artistic value.
But Miracles from Heaven (PG) is different. It's the first Christian film I've seen that I genuinely felt praise for. It passed (albeit narrowly) the 'would I take a friend who wasn't a Christian to see this?' test. Rather than being contrived, the film explored plenty of Christian themes and touched me very deeply. So much so, that if you watch the film at the cinema this weekend, you'll need to take your tissues! I haven't cried so much since The Champ (1979).
There are lots of twists and turns, that keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.
The film is based on a true story which focuses on the life of a young girl from Texas, Annabel Beam (Kylie Rogers), who is diagnosed with a rare digestive disorder. We see her childhood halted after she has vomiting fits and has to endure massive stomach pain. Annabel is eventually diagnosed with a disorder which makes eating impossible. Family life is disrupted as her parents seek a cure and determined mum Christy Beam (Jennifer Garner) goes to extraordinary lengths to save her daughter, only to be told there isn't a cure.
I won’t give away any spoilers, but there are lots of twists and turns, that keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.
The viewer will guess from the film's title that faith will win in the end, but this story explores the mystery of faith and the need for it. Christy's story reminds us that whenever we go through the mire, our faith is tested. Not only does Christy struggle with her daughter dying, but she also has to deal with some in her church questioning whether God is punishing her for a sin that she needs to repent of. It's good to see this film make a strong point that sickness isn't always tied to sin.
Miracles from Heaven is an uplifting film which isn't afraid to explore several tough theological questions including, 'why does God heal some people and not others?' Such difficulties are dealt with both honestly and biblically.
At the end of the film we hear a vivid story about Annabel leaving her body and going to heaven. There, she’s told she’ll be fine, and she should go home to her family. This is where the film loses momentum. In storytelling you must ‘show’ and not ‘tell’. The scene is quickly brushed over and has no visual effects. When I asked Christy Beam if she wished the scene was illustrated more she replied, 'The film definitely doesn’t reflect Annabel’s true heaven experience, and was somebody else’s interpretation of what Annabelle’s experience was. So that’s why I am grateful for the book.'
Another deviation from the true story is that Christy Beam never really lost her faith, like Jennifer Garner does in the film. The real-life Christy Beam told me, 'Christy in the movie loses her faith and bottoms out, but I never lost my faith. It was the only thing I could hang on to.'
At the end of the film we’re called to live every day as if it’s a miracle. This is a faith-building picture which conveys the message that walking with God feels better than walking without him. In this way, the film offers hope to all of us.
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