Strengthening faith with miracles from heaven

A scene from the play

A scene from the play

The latest Hollywood production of Christian faith-based films arrives in the form of Miracles from Heaven, a life-affirming experience that sells the miraculous story of the Beam family of Texas, United States of America.

Adapted from the memoir, Miracles From Heaven: A little Girl, Her Journey to Heaven, and Her Amazing Story of Healing by matriarch Christy Beam, the story — both book and film — focuses on Anna Beam, a 10-year-old girl with a rare intestinal condition that requires her to feed from tubes attached to her alimentary canal. Her condition grows progressively worse until she and her sister are playing, scurrying up a tree when one of the branches gives way and Anna takes a near-fatal tumble head first to the ground.

This kind of trauma should have killed her or at least rendered her paralysed, but the not so twist in the tale lies in the fact that, after series of examinations, medical specialists find no trace of the fatal condition she was diagnosed with prior to the accident.

The Sony Pictures Entertainment production, directed by Patricia Riggen, working from a script by Randy Brown, Miracles from Heaven, reassembles the duo of Bishop T.D Jakes and Joe Roth who both teamed up for the 2014 hit, Heaven Is For Real, this time with the addition of DeVon Franklin.

Jennifer Garner anchors this film adaptation and commits to a fully realised portrayal of a mother brimming with love for her family and abiding faith that can move mountains. The film is more a chronicle of a family’s unity and sacrifices made by loved ones than a stand-alone story of little Anna and her miraculous healing. Even towards the end when the film makes a detour to Anna’s mind and offers a film version of heaven, the filmmakers aren’t quite convinced how far they want to allow themselves to go with this unlikely story.

The truth is no matter how much pondering, rationalisation and soul searching the real Christy Beam must have put into her book, Anna’s experience is as singular as they come and no one, perhaps not even herself, can capture exactly the events that happened to her. As a result, Miracles from Heaven focuses on the daily family grind, or as much of it is obtainable for a family nursing a special needs child.

Garner’s Beam is ready to fly her sick child from their Texas base to wherever it is the most qualified specialists are domiciled. Her faith in God is real, wavers sometimes as Anna’s condition worsens but at no point does she believe that her faith will work independent of the best of medical care and so she dedicates her resources to pursuing the best. Perhaps, therein lies a lesson to viewers in this part of the world who are sometimes tempted to look for spiritual solutions to real world problems.

As is expected from these kinds of films, Miracles from Heaven has its tears-inducing moments, but the tears that are sure to come here do not feel manipulative. The tragedy, thanks to Patricia Riggen’s light, but assured directing does not feel overwrought. The movie instead seeks to uplift and affirm the faith in believers as opposed to seeking out new converts. Doctors and journalists are portrayed as the unbelievers they usually are without much of an attempt to woo them to the other side.

The movie is likely to play well here as audiences this side of the world are more familiar and likely to identify with such miraculous acts of faith that happened to the Beams, all the while hoping to receive their own. It is hard to fault Riggen’s film really.

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