Breakthrough [2019] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

When Joyce Smith’s adopted son John falls through the ice one fateful winter day, she feels like she’s lost him forever. However, after praying over him in the intensive care unit, she witnesses a seeming miracle as her son is able to be stabilized into a coma rather than be on death’s door. Afterward, a battle for healing begins as Joyce faces perceived opposition on every side of her as her son keeps fighting for his life.

Production Quality (2 points)

Breakthrough falls in line with other inspirational productions DeVon Franklin has been involved with, such as Heaven is For Real and Miracles From Heaven. As such, Breakthrough hits all the right proverbial notes, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality. While the soundtrack is sometimes too loud and invasive, for the most part, the sets, props, and locations are fine. This film is really just a by-the-book, run-of-the-mill inspirational production with nothing to set it apart either good or bad. The biggest glaring error therein is the poor editing, but this is mainly due to its plot problems. As a whole, Breakthrough is a safe, non-dynamic film through and through.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

On the surface, the message of the plot is fine as it blatantly panders to an inspirational audience, yet Breakthrough sets itself apart by portraying the main character in unusually perfect and un-flawed ways even though she has plenty of issues in her behavior. This premise is likely due to the original book’s content, but empowering someone who seemingly believes she never really did anything wrong and feels like everyone else in the world needs to change except for her is very suspect. The storyline and characters are required to change according to her (sometimes judgmental) standards, and she never really learns anything as she continues to live in her own little world. This is the real hidden problem with Breakthrough besides the typical spoon-feeding of inspirational messages to a hand-picked audience. While there were some interesting psychological elements in this film that had the potential to make an interesting story about the miracles of God, we are instead left with the miracles of Joyce Smith; in doing so, prayer is mis-handled and poorly portrayed as people deciding what’s doing to happen. Elsewhere, random subplots are thrown together that cause a lot of story confusion and disorganization. In the midst of the swirl, there aren’t any substantial characters to relate to because dialogue is bland and pedestrian. Even though this was a small, focused time frame, we don’t really know who these people are beyond the molds the main character puts them into. Had this story been more about miracles and prayer, we would have had another Miracles From Heaven, which was safe, standard inspirational movie designed to target a specific audience. Breakthrough tries to follow in its footsteps, yet the dictates of the main character decide otherwise.

Acting Quality (2 points)

It’s understandable that this mainly Hollywood cast is professional and appears to know what they’re doing. However, some cast members who have more potential, like Josh Lucas, come off as underwhelming and downplayed, which suggests they’ve been cast wrong. It feels like more could have been done with this cast even though there aren’t any glaring problems. With the money and expertise behind the film, the acting needed to be more dynamic than this, but it overall rounds out a mediocre effort designed as a quick cash grab.

Conclusion

DeVon Franklin loves to make money off of the inspirational audience, and he’s clearly good at it. He’s found something that works, so good for him. Nonetheless, with all the marketing and fluff of this film, there’s no real substance to back it up. We were promised a movie about a miracle, yet we can’t connect with the real story due to tainted views of the main character. What’s more, the disjointed subplots make for a confusing viewing experience as it mostly just boils down to a collection of platitudes you could find in a generic white Christian book for sale at Lifeway. There’s nothing special here, but then again, Franklin never intended to do anything further, so he’s sticking with his business model, which is at least upfront and honest. Regardless, Christian entertainment can do better than this.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Movie Renovation: A Cross to Bear

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

Obviously, the portion of A Cross to Bear that suffers the most is the production.  The production quality is very low, and this is manifested in poor video quality, below-par audio quality, and unprofessional camera work.  Though the sets, props, and locations are mostly good, the overall feel of this production is very low-budget and indie.  Thus, it is easy to point to these production elements that need to be improved and how to improve them.  Basically, a higher budget, combined with good stewardship, would have gone a long way to possibly making A Cross to Bear a Hall of Fame film.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

While the plot is surprisingly the strongest point of this film, there were a few things that could have been done differently, such as deeper character development.  More opportunities for dialogue could have been taken in exchange for removing a few of the ‘training’ montages.  The struggles of these characters were clear and easy to relate to, so a little more work in this direction could have gone a long way.

Acting Improvements

The acting of this film also has a higher rating than the production, even though there are a few amateur elements here.  There is some coaching evident, but there are a few moments that seem over-acted and some that seem under-acted.  As a whole, with a few small tweaks, this cast could have been nearly perfect.

Conclusion

Movies like A Cross to Bear are extremely rare in that their plot and acting quality are better than their production quality—this is a total role reversal from most Christian films.  What it comes down to is that A Cross to Bear needed a higher budget to succeed past its original rating.  Had it had the budget of some films half its rating, it could have a place on the Hall of Fame now.  Nonetheless, perhaps the ideas of this film could be translated to an upcoming feature.  Also, as we mentioned before, Lecrae needs to be in more films!

 

A Cross to Bear (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

One day Erica is an extravagant girlfriend of a top music executive, and the next, she is a pregnant homeless woman struggling with addictions with no one to take her in.  After facing tragedy time and again in the hard life of the streets and not being able to break her addictions, Erica finally finds Joan, a strong woman who left her nursing career behind to open her home to women on the streets.  As Erica struggles to keep from going back to her old ways, she befriends one of the other residents, Tina, who has health problems due to her being a crack baby.  In the end, Erica will have to choose between her old destructive path and a new path that has been offered to her.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

A Cross to Bear is a very frustrating movie, mostly due to its obviously cheap production quality.  The video is grainy, the sound inconsistent, and the camera work amateur.  This film obviously suffered in the financial department, yet it does not fall in line with the usual cheap Christian films.  The editing is mostly good, but it needs to be refined.  The strongest point of this movie’s production is its authentic surroundings, settings, and locations.  This is a gritty subject accompanied by gritty elements that make it believable.  This is the key redeeming quality of this otherwise poorly produced movie.  It’s unfortunate that the budget was so low; other movies with higher budgets than this are far worse.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Based on true events, A Cross to Bear is a realistic and accessible story that could occur in any given inner city in America right now.  The movie wrestles with homelessness, infant mortality, drugs, alcohol, and advocacy all while presenting an engaging plot.  Despite the low production quality, the plot is enough to keep one’s attention.  The dialogue is realistic and the characters are believable.  The story does not turn out as expected and there is a major twist at the end that makes this movie all that it is.  The only caveat that can be raised here is the fact that the characters could have been a bit deeper, since the plot depended heavily on them.  Otherwise, A Cross to Bear proves that using real events as a plot basis almost always pays off and makes for a mostly watchable movie.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is not a star-studded cast, but they do the best they can with what they have.  There is a presence of acting coaching—the actors and actresses put most Christian casts to shame.  Emotions are believable and line delivery is good.  The only things keeping this section from being better is a generally and evidently under-experienced cast, but this is nothing to be ashamed of, because there is a lot of potential here.

Conclusion

A Cross to Bear joins the ranks of Christian films that desperately need remakes.  This plot is far better than many more popular films on the market and needs to be elevated to its proper status with a higher budget and a good production team.  Every now and then, a rare nugget with potential is found in a vast landscape of B-grade movies.  A Cross to Bear is one of these.  Even if a remake is never to be made, this movie can serve as an example of how basing movies on true events is better than spinning out another cheap inspirational flick.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points