From start to finish, I found myself on an emotional roller coaster. Goosebumps rose, and tears fell as this incredible story unfolded on the big screen.
It is not surprising that faith leader DeVon Franklin decided to produce the film version of Joyce Smith’s book after only a brief encounter with Joyce, John, and Pastor Jason. Intrigued by Joyce’s account that she went into that emergency room and prayed her son John back to life, DeVon knew the film needed to be made.
The Smith family was involved at all stages of production from script development to meet-and-greets with the cast and crew. During the initial screening, Joyce commented, “You got it right.”
Chrissie Metz delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as Joyce Smith, the proud mother of adopted son John (Marcel Ruiz). Metz captures the intensity of Joyce’s faith but still manages to make her vulnerable and likeable.
When the film opens, mother and son are dealing with pubescent angst. Overprotective Joyce likes to smother her son with hugs while John tests his freedom and questions his roots.
The narrative takes an abrupt turn when John falls through an icy Missouri lake and remains submerged for fifteen minutes. On the verge of giving up, an emergency responder (Mike Colter) hears a voice that compels him to keep sweeping the lake floor. Within minutes, John is found and rushed to the ER.
Despite their best efforts, the health-care team is unable to resuscitate John. At the 45-minute mark, Joyce arrives and delivers an anguished plea, begging God to spare her son. Suddenly, John develops a pulse.
Dr. Garrett, a world-renowned specialist, expertly played by Dennis Haysbert, steps in. Compassionate but realistic, Dr. Garrett tries to prepare Joyce and her husband Brian (Josh Lucas) for less-than-ideal scenarios.
Joyce cuts him off with the most poignant lines in the film: “Go and be the best for John. Nothing less. And you just let God do the rest.”
Throughout the film, Joyce remains steadfast in her trust of God while most of the other characters believe she is in denial. A meltdown occurs, and Joyce surrenders to God's will. The morning after, John awakens with all his faculties intact. Two months later, John returns to playing basketball.
Topher Grace delivers an excellent performance as Pastor Jason, the hip young minister with a trendy haircut and wardrobe. Critical of his appearance and radical ideas, Joyce does little to welcome Pastor Jason to her faith community. But that doesn’t stop the pastor from joining Joyce at John’s bedside. Slowly, a bond slowly develops between mother and pastor. In a moving scene at the end of the film, Pastor Jason recognizes everyone who worked on John’s rescue and recovery and all who offered prayers on his behalf.
A must-see film that could reinforce or challenge your beliefs.