It’s rare to find major Hollywood figures willing to discuss their Christian faith and miracles.
Chrissy Metz and DeVon Franklin are two brave exceptions.
As one of the stars of the smash-hit TV series “This Is Us,” Metz has already won millions of fans with her portrayal of Kate Pearson. Her show isn’t afraid to make viewers cry, but this weekend she’s guaranteed to make them even more emotional with her feature-film starring debut, “Breakthrough.”
Meanwhile, Franklin has become perhaps the most successful faith-based film producer in the business. He helped run Sony’s Affirm Films division for years, where he oversaw such hits as “Heaven Is For Real” and “Miracles from Heaven.”
He recently switched to 20th Century Fox, where “Breakthrough” is not only his first movie for the studio, but the studio’s first official release since being bought by Disney last year.
But “Breakthrough” is a movie that viewers are sure to find special as well. It’s the true-life story of a 14-year-old boy named John Smith, a high school basketball star who fell through the ice of a lake near St. Louis in January 2015 and made worldwide headlines after he came back to life after having nearly drowned in those icy waters.
The film, and the book upon which it’s based, say the only possible explanation for the miracle is that his mother Joyce (Metz) prayed to God demanding that He bring her son back to her. The prayer vigils she led over his month of recovery led to even more miracles while also having a tremendous impact on the lives of not only Joyce but her entire community.
For Metz, the movie resonates with her because of her own experiences with a family miracle.
“Maybe three or four months before I knew that the story was going to be a film, my mother had a stroke and she got to the hospital in time to give her a medicine that helps,” recalls Metz. “But they weren’t sure if she’d make it through the night before this surgery that relieves swelling in the brain. I said to my sisters we’re going to pray for healing and the swelling to go down.
“I said we’ll talk about it and pray about it and only think positive thoughts about it, and the doctors couldn’t believe the swelling had gone down and she made it through the night and could have surgery,” she continues. “Then they said we don’t know if she’ll walk again and I said ‘you don’t know my mom,’ and time after time these things happened and though she has aphasia, she’s mobile and does everything on her own, has quit smoking and is the healthiest she’s ever been and that’s miraculous.”
For Franklin, the story of John Smith and his mother’s faithful prayer crusade was one he couldn’t shake from his memory. Seeing the impact the story had on people worldwide, he knew this was a story he had to share with millions more onscreen.
“It was just the impossible nature of it. I still can’t believe it,” he says. “He would be dead now if it wasn’t for his mother choosing not to let what she saw, her dead son, impact what she believed. It resonates then and now with me. If ever we doubt, look at what happened with John and what happened because his mother believed.
“Do you believe that I can bring him back?” asks Franklin. “There’s so many things in my life where I’d ask God ‘is this going to happen?’ then I think of Joyce and speak life over it. If you don’t’ cry in this film, you don’t have a heart. Even the most stone-hearted person is going to drop a tear at this film. It’s an emotional experience, more than a film to me. It’ll be very cathartic for people.”
“Breakthrough” is playing in theaters nationwide.