2016 Certificate: pg

Synopsis

Jennifer Garner stars as Texan mum Christy Beam, a dedicated church-goer who gradually loses her faith when her 10-year-old daughter Anna (Kylie Rogers) suddenly develops an incurable digestive disease. Despite the unswerving support of her family and the best efforts of the country's leading specialist, Anna's condition gets worse and worse. But just when all hope seems lost, a freak accident leads to an astonishing change... Queen Latifah plays one of many good Samaritans who help Anna's cause in a remarkable tale based on real events.

Director

  • Patricia Riggen

Cast

  • Jennifer Garner

  • Kylie Rogers

  • Martin Henderson

  • Queen Latifah

  • John Carroll Lynch

  • Brighton Sharbino

  • Eugenio Derbez

  • Courtney Fansler

Review

A powerful ensemble performance from Jennifer Garner's frown lines dominates this typically unsubtle faith drama from Affirm Films, the Christian message machine behind the recent biblical epic Risen.

To the mood-steering accompaniment of soaring strings and doleful piano plinks, it follows the true story of the church-loving Beam family whose apple-pie existence in rural Texas is shattered when middle daughter Anna (the talented Kylie Rogers) falls victim to an incurable digestive condition.

Naturally, devoted mum Christy (Garner) pulls out all the stops to get her little girl cured.

Hearts are wrenched, souls searched and sacrifices made as Christy and Anna fly back-and-forth to Boston to see the world's top gastro-doctor, while saintly dad Kevin (Martin Henderson) flogs his beloved motorbike and big sister Abbie misses an important soccer trial.

Alas, it all appears to be in vain... until Anna returns home and has a fateful encounter with an old tree that should be the end of her but turns out to be a blessing in disguise.

Whilst essentially a glossy slice of religious propaganda presented as a celebration of basic humanity, the film isn't afraid to ask big theological questions - it just doesn't provide any answers. The default argument is that whenever science is stumped, God can move in mysterious ways.

Given its time of release, you could view it as an allegory for the EU referendum, albeit with an obvious bias. Keep the faith and be saved; opt out and be damned.

Unfortunately, it rather oversteps its manipulative mark when a non-believer undergoes a Damascene conversion after his own child dies.

Engaging performances certainly broaden its appeal, especially from the younger members of the cast. But as you might guess from the title, it's totally preaching to the converted.

Elliott Noble