Lifestyle & Human Interest

'Breakthrough' Movie: Miraculous True Story of a Boy's Life Saved by Power of Prayer


Roxann Dawson’s “Breakthrough” not only speaks of the power that faith and prayer can have together, but it also displays how a church community can impact a family going through a traumatic time.

Since the 2019 film is based on a true story, there isn’t much of a curiosity gap with the outcome of the story, but watching each character wrestle with faith and sight is what makes this a film you and your family will not want to miss this spring.

At the center of the movie, a devoted mother Joyce Smith, played by “This Is Us” star Chrissy Metz, prays for the Holy Spirit to bring back her 14-old son John, Marcel Ruiz, from the brink of death after he drowned in a lake.

Despite the caution of doctors, her husband, Brian (played by Josh Lucas), and dear friends from church, Joyce stood firmly in her faith that God would revive her son and bring him back to full capability.

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Joyce is extremely involved in her small-town Missouri church; she has run the women’s ministry there for years, even before the new pastor from California came into the picture. She disdainfully watches as Pastor Jason, played by “That ’70s Show” star Topher Grace, shakes thing up in the church, from incorporating rap music into worship services to his hairstyle.

She is also desperately trying to connect with her adopted son who is not only going through typical teenage mood swings but also wrestling with insecurities from his past.

Joyce and Brian adopted John when he was only 9-months old while they were on a mission trip on Guatemala. His upcoming birthday seems to be a triggering reminder that his birth mother didn’t want him. Joyce reminds him over and over again, “You have a purpose and you are loved,” but a poorly timed school report on his family tree breeds lies that drown out his mother’s reminders.

Because John had been so distant, Joyce thought that her son was only continuing to be a distant teen when he didn’t call her first thing after spending the night with a couple of his basketball teammates. When she finally received a call from the mother of one of the boys, she was told news that no mother wants to hear: “Joyce, there’s been an accident.”

John and his two teammates had been playing on a nearby frozen lake. When the layer of ice was no longer able to handle the weight of the three boys, they all plunged into the freezing water. John helped his friends get to safety but ultimately succumbed to the water.

Fire and police crews arrived on the scene as quickly as possible and were eventually able to pull the teen from the water, but he was unconscious. After arriving at the hospital, Dr. Kent Sutterer, played Sam Trammell, and his team attempted CPR, but John had not had a pulse for over 45 minutes.

Not knowing what else to do, Dr. Sutterer called the mother in to see her son for the first time after the accident. In a deeply emotional moment, something not foreign to the “This Is Us” actress, Metz perfectly depicts the intense heartbreak of a mother seeing her lifeless child in front of her. Amidst the deep groans of loss, Joyce desperately cries out to the Holy Spirit to “breathe life” into her son.

Within minutes, the machines hooked up to John begin to detect a pulse. The medical team was speechless and could only credit his mother’s prayer for bringing the teen back to life.

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Even though Dr. Sutterer and his team were able to stabilize John and transfer him to another hospital, the Smith family still had a long journey that would continue to challenge and stretch their faith.

Unable to explain it any differently, the real medical report reads, “Patient died. Mother prayed. Patient came back to life.”

It’s hard to ignore the parallels between the resurrection in “Breakthrough” and the resurrection of Christ, which is celebrated the week of the film’s release.

Despite pleas to “face reality” from her own husband, medical specialists and others in the church, Joyce stands firm in her belief that God will continue to restore her son back to his full self.

Grammy-winning hip-hop artist Lecrae who appears in the movie told Christian Post that “Breakthrough” is a “reminder that God is not irrelevant.”

“We become unfaithful,” he continued. “He’s still faithful, and He’s going to use whoever wants to acknowledge Him to do whatever it is that He wants done.”

Watching each character navigate between faith and sight will inspire you to ask the same questions in your own heart: “Do I trust God?” “Is God big enough to change my current situation?”

Another notable theme in “Breakthrough” is the important supportive role a church community can play in times of hardship.

First seen in Pastor Jason’s dedication to stay at the hospital despite Joyce’s past criticism, and through other acts of kindness sprinkled throughout the film, this theme quickly becomes the biggest takeaway.

After these real-life events transpired in 2015, Joyce wrote a book titled “The Impossible” in hopes of showing others how great God is.

“We’ve had so many people come up and say, ‘This story has changed my life and restored my faith in God,'” Joyce Smith told The Gospel Herald in 2017. “That’s what we hope people take away from our story, that it draws everyone who hears it closer to God.”

The film’s incredibly uplifting faith-based messaged mixed with its high production value and acting skill makes this a film you and your family will not want to miss!

“Breakthrough” will be released on April 17, 2019. Visit the film’s website to purchase your tickets and to see which theaters near you are showing the film.

Disclosure: Liftable, a section of The Western Journal, was sent a preview screening of ‘Breakthrough’ from the film’s producers. We were not monetarily compensated for this publication. Opinions are those of the author.

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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