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Never give up – a “Breakthrough” is waiting!

Updated: Sep 4, 2019


Joyce Smith, played by Chrissy Metz of "This is Us," pleads with the Holy Spirit to save her son John, who has drowned.

4K frame shots courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment


4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2019; PG for thematic content, including peril; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), iTunes (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)

Best extra: “A Tapestry of Miracles: Making of”

OVER the last decade, nearly every Hollywood studio has released a faith-based movie or two clearly aimed at believers. Most are loaded with preachy dialogue and minimal special effects – keeping the budget under wraps while garnishing respectable box office returns for “God’s Not Dead” (2014), “War Room” (2015) and “Son of God” (2014) all making over $60 million. “Heaven is for Real” (2014) and “I Can Only Imagine” (2018) each topped $80 million.

Several of the most recent successes were also targeted at general audiences, inspired by true stories of medical miracles. Producer DeVon Franklin, a University of Southern California grad in Business and Cinema/Television, and an ordained minister who began preaching at 15, created “Miracles from Heaven” (2016) starring Jennifer Garner as Christy Beam, mother of Anna, 10, who has a rare, incurable disease. Anna is miraculously healed after a freak accident. Franklin was also an executive producer for the animated film “The Star” (2017) about a brave donkey and his friends who become heroes during the first Christmas.

Brian, Joyce and John Smith begin the day with prayer at breakfast.

Played by Marcel Ruiz, John Smith, 14 and adopted by the Smiths, struggles with abandonment issues. He becomes confrontational with a teammate during basketball practice.

John struggles to write a history class report on his family tree. He was adopted by Joyce and John during a mission trip to Guatemala.

In 2016, Franklin was a guest on a Christian TV talk show hosted by Sacramento, Calif. pastor/author Sam Rodriguez, who was also interviewing Missouri teenager John Smith. John had spent 15 minutes trapped under a frozen lake before he was rescued and rushed to the emergency room. Without a pulse, doctors continued CPR for another 45 minutes. “There were no vital signs, no heartbeat; he wasn’t breathing,” Franklin says in “A Tapestry of Miracles.” Franklin offered a book and movie deal to John, played on film by Marcel Ruiz, and his mother Joyce that became a bestseller and the foundation for “Breakthrough,” a real and authentic faith-based movie about the young man who, against all probability, returned to life through a flood of prayer.

Franklin recruited NBC’s “This is Us” star Chrissy Metz, for the role of Joyce Smith, a part as critical as John’s himself. Joyce and husband Brian, played by Josh Lucas, adopted John when he was a baby during a Central America mission. After the accident, the medical team waited for her arrival to pronounce time of death. Joyce grabbed his feet, something she did when he was a baby. “They were gray and cold,” Joyce says. Then she began to cry out to God.  

Holy Spirit that raised Christ Jesus from the dead, either You are who You say You are, or You’re not.” — Joyce Smith

Metz, who doesn’t have children, had the right motherly instincts. “[Joyce] refused to accept the prognosis and prayed from every single cell of her body, and heart and soul … for her son’s life,” the actress says.

Actor Topher Grace plays the compassionate Pastor Jason Noble.

Joyce questions his teaching style and modern worship music selections.

The Noble family greets their church family after Sunday services.

The ER scene is so emotional the rest of the cast was overcome, says actor Sam Trammell (“True Blood” “The Fault in Our Stars”) who plays Dr. Sutterer, the lead physician.  “There’s no way you are not brought to tears,” says Franklin. “It was raw, it was cathartic, it was open, it was transparent, and it was without fear.”

Prayer floods the film from start to finish. There were nearly 70 people in the waiting room the first night at the hospital. During the second night, a prayer vigil of over 300 rallied at the church, Pastor Jason Noble says.

“It’s remarkable because the Word [prayer] stayed throughout the story.” — John Smith  


Screenwriter Grant Nieporte (“Seven Pounds”) admits actor Topher Grace, who plays Pastor Jason, rewrote the majority of his sermon, adding a touch of comic flair. The real Pastor Jason and other local pastors were extras in the scene, for which Grace says, “Oh man, this is like taking your driver’s test in front of a bunch of NASCAR drivers.”

Franklin was quite impressed with Grace’s sincere performance as a pastor who “loves the members of his congregation, and who will be there for them, pray with them, and hang with them. It’s a love letter.”

Young actor Marcel Ruiz plays a convincing John, who also had excellent basketball skills. The real John was on the school’s basketball team. He is also a huge fan of Golden State NBA superstar Stephen Curry, who became an executive producer for the movie.

January 19, 2015: It's Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday and students are out of school. John and his friends Josh and Reiger play on a frozen lake....

...And break through the ice into 40 degree water.

Local police, responding to the 911 call, rush in to rescue the boys.

Josh and Reiger manage to swim to the surface, and are saved by first responders.

John is found 15 minutes later. He is brought to the surface, where CPR is administered, continuing for nearly an hour at Saint Joseph West Hospital.


Director Roxann Dawson who has spent the majority of her career behind the camera on TV series: “The Americans,” “House of Cards,” “Mercy Street,” “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “This Is Us,” partnered with cinematographer Zoran Popovic. They used 3.4K digital cameras (2.39:1 aspect ratio) to capture “Breakthrough.” It was then downconverted for a 2K master and upconverted afterward for Ultra 4K home presentation. “Breakthrough” was mostly filmed in and around Winnipeg, Canada, subbing for the St. Louis bedroom community, where the accident happened. The lake scene was captured on the ice, with underwater and tight shots filmed in a temperature-controlled water tank.

The 4K reveals a nice uptick in overall resolution from facial clarity to costume textural detail, while the HDR toning shows an abundance of super highlights to excellent shadow detail. The 4K and HD versions are both very similar in facial toning, which doesn't happen often. Normally the HD version leans toward an orange cast, but here both are neutral and natural.


The 4K and HD versions exclude Dolby’s height-expansive Atmos soundtrack. The eight-channel DTS-HD provides a well-designed soundstage front to back instead. It’s especially good when Christian artist Phil Wickham sings “This Is Amazing Grace,” with hip hop artist Lecrae joining in. Franklin considers it one of the best worship songs of the last decade.  Bass response thrives during a number of the pop tunes heard throughout including “Uptown Funk” from Bruno Mars, “Love Wins” with Carrie Underwood, “Play it Again” performed by Pigeon John, “Hold On” from Mickey Guyton, “Colorful” by Jukebox The Ghost, and a wonderful rendition of worship hymn “Oceans” sung by Taylor Mosby, who plays classmate Chayla.

But CPR, drugs and electric shock fail to restore his pulse. Attending physician Dr. Sutterer (Sam Trammel) cannot restore John's heartbeat.

The emergency team stop treatment. Joyce enters the ER to find her lifeless son.

Joyce holds John's feet, something she did when he was a baby. She cries out to God for help.

A miracle happens. John's heartbeat is heard over the monitor.

Dr. Sutterer finds a weak pulse and John is airlifted to Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in downtown St Louis.


Additional features include a commentary track with Franklin and Dawson included on the 4K, Blu-ray and digital, full of congratulatory comments for their cast and crew, including how they auditioned Marcel Ruiz seven times for his role as John Smith. Bonus material also includes a deleted song, “Carry My Soul” from Wickham; a short featurette “Trapped in Icy Waters,” which has the actual 911 emergency calls; and a digital exclusive of Metz’s music video for the film’s end-credit song, “I’m Standing with You.”

Some scenes might be too intense for children under the age of 9, but make sure there’s a box of Kleenex for everyone else. You’re going to need them for this inspirational film!

― Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer

Actor Dennis Haysbert plays Dr. Jeremy Garrett.

Pastor Jason and friends start to arrive at Cardinal Glennon.

Dr. Garrett doesn't expect John to survive the night, but Joyce continues to believe. Messages of support and prayer light up her phone.

After spending the night in prayer with Joyce, Pastor Jason goes home, where he receives support from his wife Paula (Lisa Durupt).

The St. Louis Gateway Arch frames the Mississippi River.


Joyce continues to talk to John: "I can't wait to see you shoot those baskets, and run up and down the court again. You are my pride and joy, John. Do you hear your mother?" Eventually, John squeezes her hand.

Dr. Garrett and Joyce ask John to squeeze their hands, but this time, there's no response.

Josh Lucas plays Brian Smith, who struggles with John's condition and doesn't enter his room for several days. "I can't see him like this. I'm sorry."

Classmates, friends and the community hold a vigil for John outside of the children's hospital.

Joyce and Brian decided to wake their son up from the induced coma. Dr. Garrett expected neurological devastation of John's brain, but "Your son is a miracle."

Two weeks later, John walks out of the hospital. He thanks everyone who gave their support during a special service at the church: "I remember waking up, and the first thing I saw was my mom holding my hand. And letting me know that everything was gonna be okay."





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