Cinematic Releases: A Tale of Two Jerks: Breakthrough (2019) - Reviewed

Breakthrough is a tale of two jerks, an unrelenting mother, and a community that comes together to save a boy’s life with the power of prayer. The two jerks in this story are a pastor, and one of his flock, a tweenage boy named John Smith. The breakthrough in this story is not only a boy’s fall through a layer of ice, but about outsiders finally being able to integrate themselves into a new family, and for a mother and son to overcome a wall of a generational gap.

At the outset, we’re introduced to John, a cocky, rude, and somewhat despondent middle schooler who likes the usual: basketball, video games, and girls. We also learn that John is adopted, and that his birthday is always a tough time for him, because he’s reminded of how his biological parents “didn’t want” him.

We’re also introduced to Pastor Jason Noble, the new shepherd in town, who, in most attempts, fails to get people to call him by his first name. Pastor Jason’s goal is to connect with the young people in his congregation, but his contemporary choices, such as featuring a rapper at the church’s service rubs some people the wrong way, including John’s mother, Joyce Smith.

Joyce Smith is a devout Christian, who, with her husband Brian Smith, adopted John during a mission trip in Guatemala. Joyce is the rock of this story; her unwavering faith in her son’s recovery serves as the catalyst by which John can come back to life, not without (also) the assistance of God.

Although visually-invisible, God is ever-present in Breakthrough. Set in the city of Lake St. Louis, the community depicted in Breakthrough is thoroughly Christian. Many scenes are set in a local church, which Pastor Jason leads, and many scenes are set in the Christian middle school aptly named “Water of Life” that John and his friends attend. God is so powerful in Breakthrough that he is able to “speak to” an atheist first responder, Tommy Shine, who’s somehow able to fish John out of the icy water.

Breakthrough spends about the first half of the movie establishing the setting and characters. The deliberate focus and portrayal of the community as thoroughly Christian makes it more plausible for atheist and non-Christian viewers to accept John’s miraculous recovery as heaven-sent.

Breakthrough addresses some questions that should be of interest to believers and non-believers alike, such as, “[w]hy do you think God chooses to save some, but not others?” Inasmuch, not everyone in the community reacts gratefully to John’s recovery; some instead wonder why some of their loved ones couldn’t have had similar interventions from God.

When confronted with these questions, John tells his congregation, his school, his community that he doesn’t know. This humbling experience, not knowing why he was saved and not others, is the ultimate breakthrough in Breakthrough. 

--Blake Pynnonen