Confession: I dreaded going to this movie, and I thought I was going to hate it. Maybe I wanted to hate it, but that was just a product of my own fear. It was impossible to hate it. Be warned, there will be spoilers in this review, but if you’ve seen the trailer, then you already know everything there is to know about it. If you would like to see the trailer, here is the link.
The plot is as follows: The Beam family are a normal, everyday, God-fearing, southern family. You like them almost immediately. Their middle child Annabel comes down with a mysterious, incurable chronic illness that is both difficult and painful. They go to multiple doctors to get answers, and get nowhere for a really long time. It tests their marriage and their financial security as well as their faith. Finally, they find a doctor at Boston Children’s Hospital who can’t cure their daughter, but can give them hope both with his knowledge and his bedside manner. After multiple trips back and forth from home to Boston,and lengthy hospital stays, Annabel is still in terrible pain and not much more can be done for her, so they send her home. While she is home her older sister talks her into climbing a big dead tree with her on their property, and when the branch they are sitting on is about to give way, Annabell jumps to a hole in the tree, falls through the trunk all the way down thirty feet, and is unconscious. Rescue teams recover her and she turns out to be fine. Better than fine. She turns out to be cured of her terminal illness. She tells her parents while she was unconscious that she had an out-of-body experience, met God, and he told her that she was going to have to go back, that she was healed. The doctors can’t explain it, she is asymptomatic and does not require medication. It’s a miracle.
There are subplots that I don’t love, like when the good meaning church ladies come to the mother Christy and ask if it was her sin or the sin of her daughter is what is keeping her daughter from getting healed by God. This causes Christy to stop going to church, and is in fact the exact opposite of what a church community, or any good community is supposed to do: they are supposed to support each other during the hard times, and what could be harder than having a child with an indescribable, incurable illness? Casting judgement about a person’s spiritual guilt is a beyond petty, it is downright cruel.
But some parts are right on. Seeing both the pain of the child, and the pain of the parents was very real. There was one part where the parent was asked to hold down the child so that the nurse could perform an uncomfortable procedure. I can’t tell you the amount of times Michael and I had to hold Wendy down for blood draws and IVs, participating in the needed trauma that had to happen. Also the part about the parents being frustrated with not being able to get answers, and being stopped by hospital policy. I’ve addressed this in my blog post Courteous Vs. Helpful, where hospital staff can be advocates for the parent or just polite. Compassion of the staff make all the difference.
Another part that was real was how a child’s illness effects everyone. The child, of course, to whom these horrible things are happening, but also the rest of the family, their friends, their community. Everyone gives something up. In the movie, the father had to sell his motorcycle to pay bills. The older sister misses her tryouts for a soccer team. They all give up pizza because Annabel can’t eat it. Annabel’s medicine schedule, on a whiteboard calendar, sits front and center in the dining room, a constant reminder that their lives are not the same, but they stick together and they tough it out because that’s what families do: they support each other, they love each other.
The most powerful message, however, comes at the end, once Annabel is healed and they return to church. Christy delivers the sermon, and though she is grateful for the miraculous healing of her daughter, she tells the congregation that miracles are everywhere. This is the important part. Miracles are the actions that others perform to support the people in need. The neighbor who watches the kids. The waitress who befriends them while they are in Boston. The receptionist who fits them in to the schedule. The doctor who gives them hope.
This is what I can’t stress enough, because when Wendy was at her sickest, we had a whole network of people both seen and unseen who helped us. Whether it was taking care of our house, watering our plants, feeding our cats, offering us places to stay, sending us gifts, bringing us Thanksgiving dinner, praying for us, helping us to move, calling to check in, offering up their sick days, taking the time to come up to Boston and help, all of these things are miracles worth celebrating. Never underestimate what your small effort can do to help a person.
The name of the movie really should be “Miracles are Everywhere.”
Ultimately, the real shame is that Christy Beam realized it once her daughter was healed, and not before.
Bring tissues if you go to see it, and let me know what you think.
Here is a link to the real Beam family, from People Magazine.