MOVIE REVIEW: Miracles from Heaven (2016)

Miracles from Heaven (Riggen, 2016) suffers from overwhelming melodrama, one dimensional characters, a preachy screenplay and tonal inconsistencies – yet, you’d find yourself grabbing a box of tissues and sobbing your eyes out, endlessly relating to a universal story about faith, despair, tragedy and hope. Now, how does a predictable, average film do that? Quite a miracle.

The narrative itself is a hybrid of the emotional arc from My Sister’s Keeper; the screenplay written in the same archetypal neighborhood to that of Mitch Albom’s novels; visually borrows some of Peter Jackson’s heavenly ideas in The Lovely Bones — these concepts are all hemmed in one rope tied in an arrow, aimed to pierce the heart of the audience – and it did, successfully. However, the biggest issue is that its goal seems to be a lot bolder than the execution itself. The story works because it’s an easy sell – but it could have been a great opportunity to get past the clichés and cheesy dialogues rampant all throughout the film and simply focus on the rawness of a story that has a very humane approach to the concept of faith and miracle. It talks too much, yet hardly shows anything other than the predictable – and it doesn’t know when to stop the sermon.

The characters are nothing but foil. It’s hard to go deep into their emotional and psychological journey when they’re written as thinly as a paper, with nothing but a very aggressive and stereotypical characterization of a sick daughter, a supportive family, and sympathetic neighbors. Something that, I believe, we’ve all seen before. It leaves us craving for something deeper other than the obvious circumstances.

Let me give an example: a particular scene where Abbie (the eldest daughter) missed the opportunity of going to a soccer tryout because her dad (played by Martin Henderson) forgot to take her there, as he was already so consumed with the crisis they were going through. Abbie, of course, was left devastated and hurt as everybody’s else’s attention was on Annabel, the sick daughter. She felt left out, yet she has to stay strong and mature being the eldest one. She wants to be selfless but it’s hard to find the balance of finding your own happiness while your little sister is dying. Deep inside her, she was torn whether to feel guilty for her sister, or to feel bad for herself. Her mind wanders in the deep of the night until she found the courage to face the situation like a young adult by the next day. And oh, that’s just me explaining solely based on my assumptions. That wasn’t shown in the film. It’s hard for me to connect what she felt in that scene, because there wasn’t anything written for her. It was just a monochromatic scene of her being forgotten by her father. There was no back story as to her lifelong interest with soccer; there wasn’t anything that could build up to the father’s deteriorating relationship to her other children – nothing. And that is just a single example.

The film, however, is all about Jennifer Garner’s tour de force performance – perhaps, the best she has ever done in her career. As Christy Beam, she plays a mother juggling risks to save the life of her daughter, while keeping her sanity and faith in check. Her subtle moments are lovely; the way her eyes speak a thousand words of despair, hopelessness while masking it with the façade of strength and stern . Her big emotional scenes were played exactly right – she has managed to be precisely what the tone of the film calls for (despite the inconsistencies of the direction). She commands every scene, and it’s enough to forgive the other flaws of present.

At the end of the day, the film has its good intentions – to bring faith and religion on the foreground by using the unfortunate circumstances of a family suffering from a tragedy. Ultimately, it speaks universally despite the specificity of the trials of the Beam family. And amidst the errors and faults of the film, ultimately it reaches to its target at a bull’s eye – it won’t disappoint when you’re looking for a faith-driven, tear jerker flick.

It works. It’s flawed, but it works.


3 out of 5 stars


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Jennifer Garner keeps the faith with ‘Miracles from Heaven’

The core of Columbia Pictures’ new inspiring film “Miracles From Heaven” is a mother on fire, an impassioned, if constantly questioning 21st Century woman, who never lets up or lets go in her efforts to keep her child from harm.

But to get deep into the grit and turmoil of that kind of maternal drive, the filmmakers knew they needed an actress who would go all-out for a brave, complex performance without ever losing the audience’s connection to her. The consummate match for that mix was found in Golden Globe® winner Jennifer Garner.

Her career spans from action roles such as CIA officer Sydney Bristow in the hit series “Alias” and the action-thriller “The Kingdom,” to sparkling comedies such as the acclaimed “Juno,” to playing opposite Matthew McConaughey in the Oscar®-winning “Dallas Buyer’s Club.” But this was a role unlike any Garner had tackled – and she jumped into it with 100% commitment.

“Jennifer was devoted to exploring that unbending strength of a mother,” says director Patricia Riggen. “She has three kids she adores, so she had that immediate understanding of Christy’s situation. But she also brought a sense of love, care and generosity that becomes the center of all the film’s relationships. The Beam family goes through all the colors of life, which is what I think makes the film an exciting and moving experience, because you see them shift from happiness to real struggle and conflict and then back to a stronger form of happiness. As Jennifer portrays her, Christy is so human and so real and I think that’s why people will identify with her.”

Garner knew right away the role was going to demand a lot – and take her on a journey that wouldn’t be easy on an emotional, spiritual or even logistical level. But she also felt an undeniably potent attachment to it. “`Miracles From Heaven’ kind of chose me,” she explains. “The night I read the script, I practically stayed awake all night. This family’s story was so moving to me and I remember feeling so grateful for my healthy three sleeping down the hall.”

That trepidation vanished by morning’s light – replaced by the feeling that she would do whatever it took to make it work. “I woke up knowing that I had to do this,” she remembers thinking. “It felt like something that had been put out there for me and so I said, ‘Yes.’”

Meeting Christy Beam only heightened Garner’s inspiration. “Looking at the world through Christy’s eyes has been such a gift for me. It gave me perspective,” Garner says. “This is the first time I’ve been able to spend so much time with the person I’m portraying. And I knew I was going to love her before I even met her. The strength she showed is something that I aspire to as a mother. I love her quiet faith. I love her relationship with Kevin. And I love their incredibly sweet family.”

That Christy questions whether her faith, or anything at all, is actually enough to hold her up through such an epic struggle was important to Garner. “For me, that’s what makes this story so human,” Garner relates. “You can understand Christy watching her child suffering so much and thinking out loud, ‘wait a minute, where are you, God?’ But I think she goes on to take that on as a challenge and commits to working that much harder to find that trust again.”

Like Christy, Garner began to see more and more how tiny, persistent miracles are what kept the family afloat just as much as the beguiling tree incident. “They had this huge miracle happen in their lives, but a miracle is also someone like Angela showing up and becoming a friend,” she observes. “A miracle is doctors going out of their way to help. A miracle is the enduring love of a close-knit family. We all have struggles in life, but I really believe that there are miracles all around — every baby born, every flower that blooms. We’re just lucky to live in this world full of beauty.”

Based on the inspiring book and astonishing true story of the girl rescued by an out-of-the-blue accident, Columbia Pictures’ “Miracles from Heaven” stars Jennifer Garner as Christy Beam, a tenacious, devoted mother whose world is flipped upside down when her daughter Anna (Kylie Rogers) is struck with a rare, incurable disorder. With a parent’s fiercest determination, Christy summons the courage to do everything she can and beyond for her child, heading on a heart-gripping quest through a medical maze, even as her faith begins to flag. Yet, just when all truly seems lost, a series of unfathomable yet documented events unfold that leave not only Christy but doctors, family and community at once baffled and profoundly inspired by the astonishing mysteries life holds out to us.

Opening across the Philippines on March 16, 2016, “Miracles from Heaven” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

Queen Latifah brings lovable charm to ‘Miracles from Heaven’

One of the most amazing – yet seemingly unlikely – things that happen to author Christy Beam – whose memoirs is the basis of Columbia Pictures’ inspiring drama “Miracles from Heaven” — is that she meets a total, random stranger who couldn’t be more different but will become her spirited guide and exuberant companion along the way.

Based on a real friend Christy made in Boston, Angela is played by Queen Latifah, the Oscar®-nominated actress, singer, songwriter and talk show host in one of her most endearing film roles to date.

“Her character’s name is Angela and she is maybe a kind of an angel,” says director Patricia Riggen. “Angela brings good things to the Beam family, but she also had to bring laughter and fun to the film – and Queen Latifah did that brilliantly. She has this wonderful ability to improvise. She’s bigger than life and yet warm and loving at the same time. She was the perfect contrast to the more conservative Texas mom Jennifer is playing. And we all had so much fun working with her.”

For Latifah, the script seemed to stand against the current grain. “It’s something positive, something uplifting, it’s about the strength and love of a family, it’s about being challenged, tested and prevailing – and I think people really want to see hopeful stories like this brought to them.”

She could understand immediately why Angela, despite knowing zero about this troubled mom and daughter from Texas, offers to take Christy and Anna under her wing. “I think Angela just sees two people in need who could use a boost. She gets that they’re going through it – and she just knows they need their day to be brightened. It’s a beautiful thing to be so giving and loving when you already have your own life to deal with. The funny thing is that Angela comes into Christy’s life at such a harrowing time and with the opposite energy, attitude and sensibility … and yet she brings a very needed breath of fresh air.”

Says Jennifer Garner who plays Christy: “What makes Angela so special is that she sees Christy and Anna and just intuits that they need a break from the scary, scary place they’re in. She sees they need to be loved and hugged and entertained a little, and she sets out to do it – and Queen Latifah does this with such gusto and pure joy. She brings to the movie exactly what Angela brought to the Beam family.”

In turn, Latifah admired how Garner brought Christy to palpably real life. “To see that kind of real-world strength in a woman is always an inspiration … but also she’s very human. Sometimes when you hear stories like this, you think it’s about the perfect person whose faith is unshakeable. But that’s not how life is. Christy’s faith gets tested and I like the honesty of that. I like that she can be angry with God — I think God can handle it! I feel that you have to keep leaning, leaning, leaning on your faith – but that can be tough when you’re in the middle of something so big.”

Based on the inspiring book and astonishing true story of the girl rescued by an out-of-the-blue accident, Columbia Pictures’ “Miracles from Heaven” stars Jennifer Garner as Christy Beam, a tenacious, devoted mother whose world is flipped upside down when her daughter Anna (Kylie Rogers) is struck with a rare, incurable disorder. With a parent’s fiercest determination, Christy summons the courage to do everything she can and beyond for her child, heading on a heart-gripping quest through a medical maze, even as her faith begins to flag. Yet, just when all truly seems lost, a series of unfathomable yet documented events unfold that leave not only Christy but doctors, family and community at once baffled and profoundly inspired by the astonishing mysteries life holds out to us.

Opening across the Philippines on March 16, 2016, “Miracles from Heaven” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

True-to-life story inspires ‘Miracles from Heaven’

Based on the inspiring book and astonishing true story of the girl rescued by an out-of-the-blue accident, comes Columbia Pictures’ “Miracles from Heaven,” the rousing portrait of a family suddenly discovering joy and promise in the most tumultuous moment of their lives.

Golden Globe® winner Jennifer Garner stars as Christy Beam, a tenacious, devoted mother whose world is flipped upside down when her daughter Anna (Kylie Rogers) is struck with a rare, incurable disorder. With a parent’s fiercest determination, Christy summons the courage to do everything she can and beyond for her child, heading on a heart-gripping quest through a medical maze, even as her faith begins to flag. Yet, just when all truly seems lost, a series of unfathomable yet documented events unfold that leave not only Christy but doctors, family and community at once baffled and profoundly inspired by the astonishing mysteries life holds out to us.

Everybody comes to a crucial moment in life when they feel they’re flat out of options. Maybe it’s a daunting health crisis. Maybe it’s family troubles or a tough emotional dilemma, but one way or the other we’ve all hit that brick wall where hope, faith and everything that usually sustains us through the day-to-day seems to evaporate, leaving the mind reeling with massive questions with no ready answers. These moments can take us down; but it is also in these moments that the unpredictable beauty and grace of life can suddenly beguile, surprise and utterly change us.

Texas mom Christy Beam was in exactly that position when she began the story that became her inspirational memoir, Miracles From Heaven. She was living an undeniably blessed life in Texas with her veterinarian husband and beautiful family of three vivacious daughters. But then, her middle daughter Annabel got sick. Diagnosed with a heart wrenching, fatal disorder – one that left her unable to digest the food most of us take for granted as one of life’s pleasures – Annabel was in dire straits. The best doctors on earth were at a loss for a solution. And all of Christy’s relentless, ceaseless efforts to heal her daughter seemed to be failing. Though absolutely unwilling to give up on the outside, on the inside, Christy was terrified, uncertain, lost.

Then, in an instant, everything changed. It began with a shocking, headlong tumble into the core of a hollowed-out cottonwood tree and it turned into both a headline-making rescue and a stunning result no scientist could adequately explain. Annabel herself had an amazing personal story to tell: a memory of a heavenly encounter that dispatched her back to her family. But for Christy, her daughter’s inexplicable recovery was only the beginning. For her daughter’s seemingly rare miracle became a moment that transformed their daily lives – as Christy began to see just how many day-to-day miracles had graced their path: from the kindness of a stranger, to the compassion of a brilliant doctor, to the candid conversations that rekindled the entire family’s sense of purpose and belief.

Beam notes that big, logic-defying mysteries such as Annabel’s can serve as reminders that subtler wonders surround us on a regular basis – and she hopes through her family’s story more people will take solace in knowing how life-changing a single act of compassion or kind word can be.

Says Beam: “I used to think a miracle came with a flash and a boom and a loud voice but now I know a miracle is also goodness, it’s love, it’s when things work that have no reason to work. To me, it’s the showing of God’s hand. There are miracles that are great and huge such as walking away from a 30 feet headfirst fall. But there are many small miracles in life too and I’m so grateful to embrace those now and watch for them every day. After everything that happened, I made a conscious decision to not take any of the little, amazing moments of life for granted.”

Opening across the Philippines on March 16, 2016, “Miracles from Heaven” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

‘Miracle from Heaven’ book now an inspiring family film

Based on the non-fiction book by Christy Beam, Columbia Pictures’ faith-affirming drama “Miracles from Heaven” brings to the screen the incredible true story of the Beam family. The film is directed by Patricia Riggen, from a screenplay by Randy Brown, and stars Jennifer Garner, Martin Henderson and Queen Latifah.

When Christy (Jennifer Garner) discovers her 10-year-old daughter Anna (Kylie Rogers) has a rare, incurable disease, she becomes a ferocious advocate for her daughter’s healing as she searches for a solution.

After Anna has a freak accident and falls three stories, a miracle unfolds in the wake of her dramatic rescue that leaves medical specialists mystified, her family restored and their community inspired.

Knowing her daughter’s miraculous healing was too significant to keep to herself, Christy Beam decided to put Anna’s amazing story into a book. She compiled all the notes and journal entries she had written during her daughter’s recovery to help her recall important facts. The result was Miracles From Heaven: A Little Girl, Her Journey to Heaven, and Her Amazing Story of Healing.

In the following interview, Christy Beam spoke about her book, her daughter’s courage, and how it has affected her family for the better.

Q: Did you believe in miracles before Anna fell from the tree and was cured?

Christy Beam: I did. I did believe in miracles. You always feel like that is something amazing and wonderful that can happen to someone else, not necessarily something that would happen to me. I believed it and I knew they happened and I knew people in our church who had experienced amazing miracles in their lives but I hadn’t necessarily thought about it applying to my life.

Q: Does she still surprise you with new details about her experience in Heaven?

Beam: Yes. I just remember sitting there and all I could say was, “Really?” All was just a silence, I was shocked. The way that she shared it so matter-of-fact. That was it, that was all she had to share at that time. Then later she would trickle in little bits of information and it would be at the most random times. It was almost when her heart was ready to share, on her terms. It was usually when I wasn’t expecting it. I had to redirect my thinking and think, “What in the world is she saying? That is amazing.”

Q: How does Anna feel about all the media attention?

Beam: She is such a humble child. She has such a sweet heart. Her desire truly is for others to gain hope and faith from her story. She just feels that God blessed her. She truly believes and says, “God blessed me with this story and I feel like I need to use my story to encourage and give others hope.” Her biggest thing she says is, even though she’s 12, she says “I want people to understand that you have to have faith and you can’t ever give up. You have to keep praying. Just because you pray today for God to take your headache away or make your stomach stop hurting, it doesn’t mean that He’s going to answer that prayer today or tomorrow, but it doesn’t mean that He’s not. We don’t ever know and that’s why you have to keep praying and have hope and be faithful.” Her biggest funny thing, the only thing she really says that is media-related, “I sure hope I meet Selena Gomez one day.”

Q: How do you feel about her story being made into film? How does Anna feel about it?

Beam: I am excited. It’s a little weird to wrap my brain around someone trying to portray all that we went through and all that I endured and to give that over and say, “Okay this is my life, this is what we did,” and trust them to do it justice. That’s a little scary, but I know that these people are amazing people. I feel strongly they’re going to do it quite well. I’m not concerned that the portrayal will not be accurate. Anna again, she thinks it’s wonderful and she hopes it changes lives, bring people closer to Christ.

Q: How has your family’s relationship with God changed since Anna’s fall and miraculous recovery?

Beam: There was just this dramatic reality who God was. But we have always been strong believers and being faithful to our relationship in Christ and how faithful Christ is to us. We were pretty fervent to begin with before it all started. But, my biggest “aha!” moment was really how I looked back and I could count the moments of faithfulness when He was faithful to us. It really challenged my heart. “How are you responding to faithfulness in Christ? Can you count the ways your faithful every day to Him?” That’s really challenged me to make those active acts of faithfulness. As opposed to just saying, “I’m praying and being faithful,” where are you physically moving forward in your life and being faithful?

Opening across the Philippines in March 16, 2016, “Miracles from Heaven” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

WATCH: Trailer for Inspirational drama ‘Miracles from Heaven’

Columbia Pictures presents the faith-affirming, inspirational drama “Miracles from Heaven” starring Jennifer Garner, Martin Henderson and Queen Latifah. Watch the film’s first trailer below.

“Miracles from Heaven” is based on the incredible true story of the Beam family. When Christy (Garner) discovers her 10-year-old daughter Anna (Kylie Rogers) has a rare, incurable disease, she becomes a ferocious advocate for her daughter’s healing as she searches for a solution.

After Anna has a freak accident and falls three stories, a miracle unfolds in the wake of her dramatic rescue that leaves medical specialists mystified, her family restored and their community inspired.

The film is directed by Patricia Riggen, from a screenplay by Randy Brown based on the book by Christy Beam.

Opening across the Philippines in March 2016, “Miracles from Heaven” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.