Brian and Joyce Smith, a middle-aged couple, are struggling to connect with their 14-year-old adopted son, John. Lately, he seems distant and cold. However, he does remain passionate about basketball. His rebellious attitude worries his parents and his basketball coach, but he won’t talk to anyone about how he feels.
While staying at a friend’s house, John and his buddies go outside and play on a frozen lake, despite being warned about the possible danger. Suddenly, the ice breaks and all three of the boys sink into the water. Though John’s two friends are rescued by emergency team, John can’t be found.
Two men from the team use poles to feel around the water for John since they can’t see what’s beneath the surface. Even though they consider giving up, one of them hears a voice telling him to keep searching. They soon find John, who isn’t breathing but is taken to a nearby hospital. The doctors and nurses try hard to revive John, but he won’t wake up. They pronounce him dead.
Joyce stays in the room and calls upon God to revive John. She cries passionately and prays fiercely for her son to come back to life. Moments later, he does. He is then taken to another hospital to be monitored, but he is kept in a medically-induced coma.
Joyce is constantly at John’s side, but Brian, Joyce’s husband, won’t go into the hospital room. There is an obvious strain on their relationship. Though Joyce wants everything to be okay, she realizes she can’t control the situation. This realization helps strengthen their marriage. Thankfully (for the most part), John’s friends and the Smiths’ pastor support Joyce and Brian during this time. They lift up John in prayer and visit the hospital.
Though John’s doctor is hesitant about ending his medically-induced coma, he finally allows it. Miraculously, John is able to breathe on his own. He can eat, speak, and move and doesn’t have any injuries. He soon leaves the hospital to go home.
Life basically returns to normal after that. John even returns to playing basketball. Near the end of the movie, there is a heartfelt scene at the Smiths’ church where John and his parents speak to the congregation; and he thanks his parents for all they’ve done for him.
The message of this movie is clear: don’t give up hope and trust God’s plan. Even when tragedy hits. Even when the future is uncertain. Even when we don’t understand what He is doing. The power of prayer and surrender is a crucial aspect of this movie.
Breakthrough inspires viewers to rely on God through difficult times, keep praying no matter how depressing life feels, and encourage others in their struggles. Instead of abandoning the Smiths when they lost (and regained) their son, the Smiths’ pastor, John’s friends, and even strangers rallied around them to comfort them and to pray. Supporting those who are struggling is also a major theme.
Though Breakthrough seems similar to recent movies about heaven, such as Heaven is for Real or Miracles from Heaven, it is actually quite different. It is not mentioned or implied that John goes to heaven when he is dead for about 45 minutes after he drowns. Breakthrough is not really focused on heaven, but it is focused about hope.
Of course, there may be doubtfulness in John’s coming back to life. It does seem impossible for him to have been dead for almost an hour but suddenly be alive again. But we can’t believe the Bible is true and doubt that God raises people from the dead. Jesus rose Lazarus from the dead, He rose from the dead, and He raised others from the dead. Though uncommon today, this can happen and has happened.
In a word, Breakthrough is encouraging. It was amazing that John, after drowning in freezing water, dying, coming back to life, and being taken off the ventilator, was perfectly fine. He didn’t have trouble breathing, speaking, or moving. God completely healed him and clearly answered the prayers of his family, friends, and even strangers. It’s also amazing that God spoke to an unsaved rescue team member and used him to rescue John.
Honestly, Breakthrough is also an emotional rollercoaster. I came close to crying many times. The relationship between John and Joyce is especially heart-wrenching. Even though he basically wants nothing to do with her, her love toward him is relentless. Her sacrificial love is an example of Christ’s sacrificial love toward us.
Of course, it would’ve been great if the salvation message had been woven into this movie. But even though salvation was not a theme in Breakthrough, it is still an excellent film. It can still inspire readers to trust God—whether it’s for salvation, for wisdom about the future, or for strength in difficult circumstances.