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FLICKS:Heaven Is for Real

Posted on 24 April 2014 by LeslieM

By Dave Montalbano


With most films being marketed for middle school students with disposable incomes, I found it refreshing to be the youngest member of the audience of the Good Friday screening of Heaven Is for Real. The matinee screening was a virtual sell-out and the film ended with a round of applause. Lacking the multi-million-dollar marketing push of Transcendence (which bombed at the box office), the box office receipts have made Heaven Is for Real the certified sleeper hit of 2014.

With the exception of the film’s opening and closing shots of a young female artist painting a picture in Russia, this film is set in the flatlands of Nebraska. Minister Todd Burpo (Greg Kinnear) and his wife Sonja (Kelly Reilly) are community leaders who are working hard to maintain their home. While relaxing on a Sunday afternoon after church services, Todd breaks his leg playing baseball. After recovery, the Burpo family takes a much-needed vacation and Colton Burpo’s (Connor Corum) appendix bursts.

As Sonja arranges for community prayers and Todd gets into an argument with God in the hospital chapel, Colton recovers. As the family returns to a routine life of financial strife, Colton starts talking about visiting Heaven and meeting Jesus. While most people dismiss Colton’s words as hallucination, Todd listens attentively. Colton begins talking about meeting deceased family members who passed away before he was born.

The television commercials fulfill the cheesy expectations that a title like Heaven Is for Real would bring. Yet, these cheesy scenes occur within the first 1/3 of the movie, which makes the viewer wonder — “What is going to happen next?”

The answer is a satisfying confluence between pragmatism and faith. Writer/director Randall Wallace excels with this form of visual storytelling. Wallace was Oscar-nominated for his screenplay of Braveheart and directed The Man in the Iron Mask, We Were Soldiers and Secretariat. Heaven Is for Real is Wallace’s most quiet movie, yet with an intense visual clarity.

Connor Corum will steal hearts. Kinnear and Reilly provide understated, but sincere, performances. Ten years ago, Reilly gave a noteworthy performance in Mrs. Henderson Presents … Since then, she has been working steadily in supporting roles (most notably as Jude Law’s longsuffering wife in Sherlock Holmes movies). Tonight, she takes center stage as a bipolar doctor in Black Box on ABC. Reilly is one of many reasons to see this lifeaffirming movie.

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