Annabelle Beam, “Anna” (Kylie Rogers) is a ten year-old girl who lives with her two sisters and parents, Christy (Jennifer Garner) and Kevin (Martin Henderson) in Burleson TX. Anna suffers from “pseudo-obstruction motility disorder” meaning that her intestines are not able to function. As her condition worsens with increasing pain, Christy desperately tries to find a doctor that can help Anna but is frustrated at every turn.
Christy finally finds Dr. Nurko (Eugenio Derbez) in Boston and makes repeated calls for an appointment. Unsuccessful, she flies with Anna to Boston and surprises the receptionist (Suehyla El-Attar) by demanding an appointment. The receptionist agrees to try even though it could put her job in jeopardy. Christy and Anna, with nothing else to do, visit an art museum where Anna is transfixed by Monet’s impressionist watercolors. They meet a friendly waitress, Angela (Queen Latifah) who sees that Christy and Anna need cheering up.
Then a call comes telling them of an appointment for early the next morning. They meet with the doctor who has a winning way with children but he is unable to offer much hope. In the hospital Anna’s pain is so strong that she begs her mother to let her go. It is the most heartbreaking moment in the film as it seems Anna’s death in immanent.
Kevin and the other two girls, Abbie (Brighton Sharbino) and Adelynn (Courtney Fansler), try to buy a ticket at the airport to get to Boston but his credit cards are maxed out. An airline representative makes it happen and they arrive to see Anna. But she doesn’t die. She is able to go home.
No one knows how long Anna has. Each day seems a miracle. One afternoon Abbie convinces Anna to climb the 30-foot tree on their property, something they have done before. When a branch begins to crack Abby tells Anna to move to the trunk of the tree for safety. But the tree is rotted from the inside and Anna plunges to the ground headfirst.
What happens next is medically inexplicable to Dr. Nurko (but, if you ask me as a person with MS and knowing the role of the brain in the body’s bladder and gastro-intestinal workings, I was a little surprised they hadn’t checked out Anna’s brain as part of their diagnostics. Anyway.)
Nevertheless, for the family, all of it is a miracle because medicine couldn’t explain it and had basically failed them to this point. Anna’s fall changed everything. And it was in that time, when everyone thought she had died, that Anna experienced heaven.
I think I went through a box of tissues while watching this beautifully rendered film.
Please note, the above is not a plot spoiler. The whole story is basically in the trailer, which is too bad. I saw the film without checking the trailer or knowing the story and the film was all the more powerful. But if you like inspiring films closely based on a true story you’ll like this one.
Garner and Kylie Rogers carry the story and young Kylie is exceptional. When she cries out in pain to her mother and asks to let her go to God, it breaks your heart it is so realistic. How many parents must accompany their children on this journey of suffering; this is when you know that parenting is a sacred calling. Garner is a beautiful mother bear who persists no matter the obstacle.
“Miracles from Heaven” is based on Christy Beam’s 2015 memoir Miracles from Heaven: A Little Girl, Her Journey to Heaven, and Her Amazing Story of Healing.
And a note about the miracles in the film. There are miracles everywhere! Unexpected people who cross our paths, who do a good turn, who go the extra mile or minute and make profound differences in our lives. These are miracles! Then there are medical miracles that no one can explain.
There is a theme about faith, too, especially in the face of dying and death for children. Anna shares her faith with another girl in the hospital whose father does not believe. But he is a man on a journey who asks questions, searching for answers in his grief.
I asked Queen Latifa on the red carpet why she had decided to take on the role of Angela (she does play a kind of Guardian Angel in the film.) At first she joked that it was because she would have a chance to visit the New England Aquarium! Then she became more serious and said, “Sometimes roles come along and you know you have to take them.”
The Beam family was also on the red carpet and they all agreed that they liked the way the film came out and the girls appreciated how they were represented in the story, too.
If there’s one challenge in the film it’s Anna’s journey to heaven in that in between time from the tree to waking up when the family thought she had died. It’s very hard to depict heaven in a movie but the filmmakers used images that reflected the beauty of Monet’s art. Another fascinating point about the film is the music, scored by Carlo Siletto. When I asked him about his inspiration for the music he said it was Monet’s art as well. Fascinating.
I hope you will go to see “Miracles from Heaven” especially if you are or know the parents of a sick child. It will give you hope, it will engage your empathy, your faith and your admiration for parents, especially Christy, who will sacrifice everything and anything for a child; for a husband who perseveres even when it doesn’t seem he is doing anything right and siblings who feel neglected but hang in there.
A note about the director, Patricia Riggen. She brings an especially maternal quality to the films she makes, from “Under the Same Moon” to “The 33” and now to “Miracles from Heaven.” I like her style and her ability to evoke such strong emotions from her characters.
“Miracles from Heaven” is a story for springtime and for Easter: family, miracles, life regenerated and the resurrection of hope, faith and love.