Chrissy Metz Gives a Moving Performance in ‘Breakthrough’
A true story of survival is brought to life in “Breakthrough.” Chrissy Metz brings all the emotions that have made her a favorite on “This Is Us” to her very different role here as Joyce Smith, a Missouri wife and mother. Steeped in her faith, she and her husband Brian (Josh Lucas), are put to the test when their only child, 14-year-old John (Marcel Ruiz), fights for his life after falling through an icy lake. This rare major studio faith-based film features strong performances, not only from Metz but also Topher Grace (who co-stars as a hip pastor), Dennis Haysbert (a gifted doctor who works to save John’s life), and Mike Colter as Tommy Shine, the firemen who examines his own beliefs after his recovery of the drowned boy.
John is introduced as a typical rebellious teenager. He has a lack of respect for authority figures, particularly his mother. However, his inner struggle as an adopted child makes him somewhat sympathetic. While John goofs off with his pals, plays basketball, and ignores his mother’s texts, Joyce leads a women’s ministry group at the local church, where she butts heads with the new pastor, Jason (Grace), who disregards her paper sign-up sheets and offends her with his edgy haircut and penchant for Christian hip-hop. His including references to “The Bachelor” in a sermon does not do much to endear him to the more conservative Joyce either.
None of these annoyances matter after John falls through the ice while messing around with his friends. A horrifying scene unfolds as the teen is submerged for 15 minutes before he is rescued by Tommy, who is guided by a mysterious voice. He is then transported to the local hospital where, despite the best efforts of the medical team, he is pronounced dead. Joyce is brought in to say goodbye, and even the strongest unbelievers can’t help but be moved by Metz moving performance, as Joyce makes an emotional plea to God to save her son seconds before his pulse returns. Still, the young man isn’t out of danger yet, and even a renowned drowning expert, Dr. Garrett (Haysbert), doesn’t feel confident that he will recover. Luckily, Joyce has a bottomless reserve of faith, as do many of John’s classmates and numerous others from their small town. It’s heartening to see how people can be brought together during a time of crisis.
While Joyce sits vigil over her son’s bed, neglecting her own health in the process, Lucas is given less to do, as Brian can’t bear to see his comatose son hooked up to tubes. Jason, however, is a constant presence at the hospital, going above and beyond the duties of a pastor, offering not only support to Joyce, but also guidance, particularly when it comes to her control issues. While thoughts and prayers go a long way in “Breakthrough,” credit is also given to the hardworking team of medical professionals (yay science!) who work tirelessly to bring about this modern-day miracle.
Overall, “Breakthrough” is a wholesome, inspiring story. While it’s “power of prayer” theme will no doubt bring in the churchgoing crowd, its themes pertaining to community and family are universal. Director Roxann Dawson and screenwriter Grant Nieporte, who adapted Joyce Smith’s own book “The Impossible: The Miraculous Story of a Mother’s Faith and Her Child’s Resurrection,” acknowledge that life and faith are complicated and don’t try to tie up the story neatly with a bow. Even after John recovers, he is left to deal with a heavy burden and the stigma that goes along with being “Miracle Boy.”
The uplifting soundtrack is worth mentioning, particularly “I’m Standing With You,” a song performed by Metz herself and written by songwriter Diane Warren.
“Breakthrough” opens April 17 nationwide.