Contrary to popular opinion, I do not see every single movie in the world, but usually I do at least know about them. Not much sneaks by me. So when this particular movie managed to snag an Oscar nomination (for original song), I was like: huh? Sean thought it might be “one of those religion ones” but it wasn’t until I saw the poster that I remembered it at all, indeed a religion one, starring Chrissy Metz from This Is Us (Randolph & Beth forever!). I’m glad to see her branching out but it wasn’t for that pesky Oscar nom, this one would 110% have passed me by,
Chrissy Metz stars as Joyce, a Christian mother who offers up the kind of teasing prayers during dinner that make husband Brian (Josh Lucas) smirk. But her son John (Marcel Ruiz) is a teenager, determined not to crack a smile. He’s in an eye-rolling phase. An avid basket ball player at school, John is also struggling with his origin story, having been adopted from Guatemala while Joyce and Brian were there on a church mission. Meanwhile, Joyce is at odds with the new “cool” young pastor at her church, Jason (Topher Grace). Jason has a spiky haircut and references The Bachelor during sermons and says things like “Dope!” He wears the same kind of headset microphone that Britney Spears wears and has rock bands with auto-tuned rappers sing “hymns.” Oh he’s shaking things up.
Meanwhile, the movie is determined to establish itself as not just a Christian movie, shelling out for pop songs by Bruno Mars and Macklemore; John is a kid like any other, saving a pristine pair of Jordans for an occasion so special that only he will know it when he sees it.
I happened to notice a Stephen Curry listed as a producer and wondered if it could be THAT Curry. I wondered even more when the all-star was mentioned by name – the Warriors would be in town to face Kevin Durant and the Thunder. This places the film for me immediately, in the season just before Durant joined Curry on Golden State, the very same season when Sean and I traveled to OKC to see Durant face Lebron, then playing for Cleveland, and then we drove down to Dallas to see them play the Warriors. We were traveling in December, for Sean’s birthday, and a snowstorm here in Ottawa meant we almost didn’t make it, touching down in Oklahoma with just minutes to spare. I remember the valet at our hotel apologizing for their unseasonably cool weather but of course it felt downright tropical to us. But in St Louis, MI, it was cold enough for a lake to have frozen, but warm enough that a trio of teenage boys were out playing on it when the ice gave way and John went down.
After an hour with no breath and no pulse, the doctors draw the logical conclusion; they’ve only worked this long to keep him decent for his mother to arrive and say goodbye. Her frantic prayer is heard, or else this movie wouldn’t be much of a movie, and a pulse reappears from nowhere. But his brain was starved of oxygen for far too long. In an induced-coma, his parents are prepped for his inevitable vegetative state. But you know that Joyce isn’t about to let that happen. She badgers his doctors just as much as she badgers the lord.
He recovers of course. That’s a foregone conclusion in a Christian film. Religion isn’t my thing and neither is an entirely predictable plot. But I will begrudgingly admit that Breakthrough has a whole mess of admirable performances. And interestingly for a movie that attributes John’s recover to god’s miracle, it dares to ask why god saves some and not others, which is one of religion’s great quandaries. Of course Breakthrough doesn’t have an answer, but I give it credit for even voicing the question.
And push come to shove, it’s now an Oscar-nominated film, for a song called I’m Standing With You, performed by the esteemed Chrissy Metz and written by Diane Warren. And Diane Warren is not to be messed with. She’s got 11 nominations under her belt, including for chart-busting songs like Because You Loved me, from Up Close and Personal, performed by Celine Dion, and How Do I Live from Con Air performed by Trisha Yearwood and I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing from Armageddon and performed of course by Aerosmith. The woman is a songwriting powerhouse. Will this be her year? Check it out:
Undeniably beautiful, but her competition is fierce:
Stand Up, written by Joshuah Brian Campbell & Cynthia Erivo, performed by Erivo for the movie Harriet
From Toy Story 4, I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away, written and performed Randy Newman, a man with 20 Oscar nominations and 2 wins under his belt (Toy Story 3‘s “We Belong Together” and “If I Didn’t Have You” from Monsters, Inc.)
Also from Disney, Into the Unknown, performed by Idina Menzel and AURORA, written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez who have two previous Oscar wins for “Let It Go” from Frozen and “Remember Me” from Coco.
And of course (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again from the Elton John biopic Rocketman. Written by John (who has a previous win for The Lion King’s Can You Feel the Love Tonight) and Bernie Taupin, performed by both Elton and Taron Egerton. It took the Globe – will it take the Oscar as well?
Who do you think will win??
Great review, Jay. I remember when this one came around, but I didn’t see it. I rarely watch “Christian” films, though I am one. Diane Warren is a powerhouse songwriter and a fine singer in her own right. I doubt I’ll see Breakthrough, but I’m glad to hear, from a source I trust, that its a good movie.
I prefer to continue believing that you HAVE seen every single movie in the world. That’s because your blog is the only place I consult for movie reviews. So I will continue to suspend disbelief on that one. Have you seen Chris Eliot’s “Cabin Boy”? That was a rhetorical question. Of course you have. You’ve seen every movie in the world and if you did happen to miss one or two, Sean almost certainly watched them.
All great songs. Picking a winner would be tough.
I forgot about Breakthrough. The trailers for that were so terrible that I never bothered. I was sure I’d cringe the entire way through, even with hot Luke Cage to look at.
My husband loves these movies, but I can’t watch the ones that I know are going to make me cry. When he watched it I was in the kitchen and found myself walking by the TV a lot and taking a lot of deep breaths. It’s based on a true story too which gives me the mega chills: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/missouri-teen-submerged-icy-lake-15-minutes-makes-miracle-recovery-n300841
I ain’t seeing that bullshit. Fuck Christianity. And fuck Diane Warren. Having people sing songs about how pathetic they are is the closest thing to assisted suicide.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I missed this one. Chrissy Metz is good but I’m putting my Oscar money (if I had any) one Elton John winning it!
Ah. I, too, have not heard of this movie before.
Jay, you have seen every movie ever made – I’d swear! This will be a tough competition for sure.
Who the heck knows re: Oscar songs. The whole selection process mystifies me, and I always got my picks wrong at Oscar-viewing parties. Generally, there’s a spot where you put your preference and then pick what you think will actually win, so my pick is Stand up, but I imagine either the elton john song or the toy story song will win. Probably the toy story song.
I think the Toy Story song is my least favourite. My faves never win though, and sometimes aren’t even nominated.
That question you posed has been poking its head out since my Sister passed from cancer just a few days over a year ago. My answer was solid and, I believe, correct. First, we don’t know what was in my sister’s deepest of hearts and, perhaps, she was ready to go. Second, my new spirituality states that it is what is in your deepest heart that the Law of Attraction brings to you.
I would suggest that you read Pam Grout’s “E Squared” and then Anita Moorjani’s “Dying to Be Me”. They have changed my life along with Neale Donald Walsh’s “Conversations with God Book 1”. Very good and fairly easy reading and so wonderful are the messages.
For a better film on a similar topic, I’d recommend Heal The Living. Gorgeous and heartbreaking and none of that American evangelism.