Sunday, April 28, 2019

Breakthrough (2019)

There’s a scene, early in the movie, where we see a Christian band performing.  Rather than keep it brief, it goes on just a little too long.  All I could think was that it was time to move on to the next thing.  This proved to be a pretty good analogy for the rest of the movie.  Everything about it is just a little too much.

The movie is based on a book, which was an account of a true story.  The book was written by Joyce Smith about her son, John, who fell into a frozen lake and was pronounced dead.  He makes a full recovery because of Joyce’s faith in the Christian God.  There are a few scenes where this is done subtly.  Tommy Shine, a paramedic trying to get John out of the water, hears a voice that he initially assumes to be his boss’s.  When his boss denies it, it must be God.

Many scenes are more blunt.  When Joyce is allowed to see John’s body, she starts praying.  Right when she asks for His help, John’s heart starts beating.  Coincidence?  It’s probably not that simple.  Between the fact that John’s mother wrote the book and the fact that Hollywood is known to embellish a little, I would think that there’s more to the story.

I would come down harder on Joyce except that the movie does well in portraying her as a mother in grief.  I get that she’s dealing with the possible loss of her son.  My issue is that religion is the only mechanism that she has to deal with that stress.

When Joyce overhears doctors talking about the reality of John’s condition, she forbids any such talk in his room.  When friends and neighbors are gathered in the waiting room Joyce overhears someone telling their daughter that John’s might not make it.  Again, she forbids any negativity.  (Fortunately, Brian calls her on this.)  Instead of religion being a powerful force, it could easily be seen as a crutch.  It’s like that saying: If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Consider something called survivorship bias.  Dr. Garrett indicates that he’s never seen someone that far gone come back.  How many of those other patients had family members and friends praying for them?  Maybe we’re to believe that Joyce is just better at it.  It’s because of her sheer willpower that God let John live.

One might say that this was all a way to let Joyce shine and show her faith.  She gets to tell everyone that God will take care of it.  Maybe it was to show her to tone it down a bit.  She is at odds with a lot of people, including the pastor.  It’s easier for me to believe that it was all random.  To put that much stock in faith undercuts the work that medical professionals do.  John is lucky to be alive and to have parents that love him.  I just don’t think that God was ever part of it.

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