New drama ‘Breakthrough’ utilizes faith to recreate a tragic, but heartwarming story


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The acting family of the Smith’s partaking in daily prayer before breakfast. The first scene serves as an introduction to the main theme of faith.

Set in Missouri in 2015, a boy faces impossible odds in a coma after spending 20 minutes at the bottom of a frozen lake. The new movie “Breakthrough,” now in theaters, dives into the true story of Joyce Smith and her faithful belief of her son’s survival. The new drama features Chrissy Metz, Josh Lucas and Topher Grace as some of the main characters.

After falling into a frozen lake while playing with friends, Joyce Smith is the only one who is confident of her adopted son’s survival. The predictions of professionals and statistics by computers all show the same outcome: John would not make it through the night.

Joyce’s unfaltering belief in God to save her child inspires others to believe and have faith in the miracle of John’s survival. From John’s classmates to adults he never met, it seemed like the whole community was praying for him.

Overall, I thought this movie was sub-par. The three most important categories in a drama are what I rated the movie on: Acting,–because how can the story feel real if the acting is poor?–character development–a viewer will not feel a lot of emotion if he does not feel connected to the character and concluding with emotional impact–an obvious one for a category of film centered around emotion overload.


Unless it is an action-comedy, the acting has to be well done for me not to hate it. Sadly, within the first scene of “Breakthrough” I knew it was going to be a long movie filled with acting that felt sappy and fake. When the acting is bad, senior Ethan Dick and member of Cutaway Productions says it “really does pull you out of it.”

You have to care about the character, otherwise what’s the point?”

— Deb Drew

There were too many scenes of arguing between Joyce and other disbelievers in which the acting made them feel fake and meaningless. I assume the point of the arguing scenes was to convey Joyce’s unfaltering belief in her son’s survival which, I strongly feel, is an immensely touching aspect of the movie, but sadly I also feel as if I left the theater without that impact due to the sappy, non-genuine acting.

Character development

“You have to care about the character, otherwise what’s the point?” Deb Drew, Cutaway Productions director stated.

Drew spent 10 years in the film business. The character development in “Breakthrough” was far from decent, but not horrible. John was a high school student, which was a connection I felt with his character. Nevertheless, it was difficult for me to care about any of the characters, partly because I thought they were poor actors, partly because they lacked personality.

“You have to develop a personality so that when whatever happens to the person, if they die or get sick or move or whatever, you have an emotional connection to them,” Drew explained.

The main aspect of the movie and the theme of a mother’s unconditional hope and love for her child is the only reason the character development was not totally absent. The slow progression of the plot revealed one meaningful theme: a mother who would not rest until she knew her son was okay.

Emotional Impact

One of the main themes of “Breakthrough” was religious faith and using it to cause a miracle. Not being religious, that aspect did not add a lot to the movie. However, I recognized it was one of the few things which gave it character. I can see that for someone who is strongly Christian, the emotional impact would have been much more moving.

Sophomore Cade Call said the movie really connected with his own personal faith, and he thought the movie was extremely moving.

The emotional climax, when dozens of community members from high schoolers to church-goers showed up outside John’s hospital window, was pretty emotional. It is the one part of the movie I enjoyed.

Even though the acting was bad and I did not feel connected to the characters, I still got the feel of a hope-filled mother waiting for her son to wake up, with dozens of people outside singing, praying and hoping for John’s survival alongside Joyce.

“Breakthrough” is not a movie I would like to see twice, nor a movie I would want to see once. The poor acting and character development brought down the movie as a whole to a point where I really could not see someone enjoying it. However, the fact that it is a true story definitely added emotional impact so I would only recommend this movie to a sucker for a drama.