So right out of the gate, the most incredible thing about Breakthrough is that it’s somehow not a Pure Flix production. It’s actually a Walt Disney movie albeit one that it acquired from its purchase of Fox and still farted it into theaters, so make of that whatever you want. In the meantime, I realize Topher Grace’s inexplicable presence probably should’ve been the opener, but it’s too late for that now. You can’t change the past.
Anyway, if you’re not familiar with Breakthrough, I’m going to encourage you to give the trailer a whirl because it makes it abundantly clear what kind of movie we’re dealing with here. When the two minutes are up, you will know without a shadow of a doubt that Breakthrough is 100% about a kid falling into a frozen lake and his mom totally praying him back to life. (After God told Luke Cage where to find his body, of course.) You cannot make this sh*t up.
In stark contrast to its close cousin Unplanned, the central story in Breakthrough is actually true and legitimately incredible. In January 2015, 14-year-old John Smith fell into a frozen lake in St. Louis and made an astonishing recovery despite spending over 15 minutes underwater and almost an hour without a pulse, according to NBC News. Even a blackhearted heathen like myself would feel comfortable calling John’s recovery “miraculous.” Unfortunately, John’s doctors were also big on using the term and crediting supernatural forces because Catholic hospitals are a thing.
Crews attempted CPR for 15 minutes before doctors at SSM St. Joseph Hospital West continued the procedure for another 27 minutes, KSDK reported. During that time, he showed no signs of life. But just then, John’s mother, Joyce, entered the trauma room and started praying loudly, said Dr. Kent Sutterer. “Within a matter of a minute or two, his heart started again,” the doctor told KSDK.
The 5-foot-3 teen’s body temperature was at 88 degrees, and doctors were still worried that he could die within days if not hours. But not only did he survive — his brain functions returned to normal. “The only factors medically that were really in John’s favor is that this was a cold-water drowning,” Dr. Jeremy Garrett told the station. Still, doctors remain baffled that his brain function was preserved. The tenacious teen, who loves playing basketball, must undergo several weeks of outpatient therapy after his brush with death. But Dr. Garrett said John’s recovery remains like nothing he has ever seen: “It’s a bonafide miracle.”
As Friendly Atheist writer Hemant Mehta noted at the time, there were at least three significant factors working in John’s favor: The quick response of the EMT team, the fact that said team had literally just practiced ice rescues the week before, and the cold-water drowning that John’s doctor mentioned before going ahead and chalking this one up to Jesus magic. Turns out if your kid is going to drown, the best possible scenario is for that drowning to occur in icy-ass water, according to Live Science in a report on an Italian teen who survived after being trapped underwater for an hour.
Long story short, while John’s recovery defied overwhelming odds and is nothing to sneeze at, it’s not a completely rare occurrence. Uncommon, for sure, but not a groundbreaking event whose only explanation is divine intervention. In other words, the more accurate term here is lucky. John was lucky as hell. But that ain’t gonna sell tickets.
Before I go any further, let me just say that there is nothing inherently wrong with people finding comfort in prayer during a nightmare ordeal. It’s not my choice of coping method, but I get it. I truly do. The problem is Breakthrough doesn’t stop there. It plants its flag on God stepping in thanks to Chrissy Metz’s prayer warrior mom, which opens up some Olympic-level mental gymnastics.
Via The AV Club:
More often, though, the movie’s attempts to grapple with its own implications are, as the Bible says, totally half-assed. Someone asks a question addressing how arbitrary these miracles can feel to those who don’t actually get to experience them with their own loved ones. But the movie’s heart is not really in this conversation, which happens so suddenly, spurred by a teacher who isn’t important to the story and is inappropriately pressing one of her students on the matter, that the character winds up looking like a low-key monster.
I haven’t exactly been shy about my Christian upbringing, which was absolutely steeped in this socially acceptable form of witch doctoring. I can’t tell you how many times I heard prayers to the “great physician” who was clearly behind every doctor’s thoughts and moves. (Have I also seen a woman “healed” of multiple sclerosis during a spectacularly f*cked up church service that led to my parents joining an even crazier denomination? Yes. Yes, I have!) But what’s rarely talked about is when God decides to sit one out because there’s an easy, catch-all answer for when sh*t happens, as it so often does: “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”
And that’s the beauty of Christianity. Why embrace the glaring, arbitrary randomness of life when you can embrace the glaring, arbitrary randomness of a divine being who requires ten percent of your income, and oh, by the way, might drown your kid in a f*cking lake just to make sure you’re committed to Jesus-vision.
Get a piece of that, says Breakthrough, or else…
Header Image Source: Disney