It’s one thing for a Southern American family to believe that their daughter’s illness was an act of cruelty by God, and her subsequent battle against it to be one of kindness. Most of us would be more inclined to curse our luck; to focus our energy on thanking doctors working diligently away, rather than palming it off as a divine intervention. However who are we to judge? If people want to think this way they’re allowed to, they aren’t harming anybody and it’s their life – it’s none of our business. But when this notion is perpetuated through the medium of cinema, with director Patricia Riggen and screenwriter Randy Brown seemingly incensed on showing us viewers ‘the light’ – it becomes our business.
Based on a true story (well, the illness aspect, anyway) we delve into the life of the Beam family, living an idyllic lifestyle, as the portrait of the perfect family, fulfilling the much lauded, idealistic ‘American dream’. Kevin (Martin Henderson) is a veterinarian, while his wife Christy (Jennifer Garner) looks after their adoring three daughters. As active members of the local church, they are dealt a devastating blow when middle child Anna (Kylie Rogers) is diagnosed with a life-threatening digestive disorder. With local doctors at a loss, giving up hope on the young girl’s survival, Christy is determined to keep trying, and so sets off to Boston to convince the venerable Dr. Nurko (Eugenio Derbez) to have a look for himself, hoping that he lives up to his reputation.
Faith is undeniably a theme deserving of exploration in cinema, especially considering just how many people use their religion as a means of comfort during such exasperating, tragic times – but the film has a responsibility to take a more impartial stance, rather than give off the impression that perhaps a miracle did indeed occur. The film does address its doubters though, in one meta sequences in the closing stages, as questions are posed to Christy about the whole ordeal – but she swats them away and ultimately the film ends up applauding itself.
On a more positive note, and arguably the only thing actually worthy of applause, are the leading three performances. Henderson and Garner play the devastated parents with a certain, understated vacancy, as though empty behind the eyes, which is far more affecting, and real, than the more melodramatic approach of screaming and shouting. Rogers completes the pack with an impressive turn, particularly so given just how rich a character she is undertaking, and the nature of the scenes she’s to perform.
Miracles From Heaven taps into an extremely unsettling notion: that of losing a child, a fear that lives deep within us all. However, regrettably, any emotional investment is made harder when watching a film that has such a mawkish means of presenting its narrative, persistently undermining what could, and should be, a far more challenging watch.