Inspirational Memoir Recounts Teen’s True Tale of Survival
SURVIVAL TALE: “Breakthrough,” based on a memoir by Joyce Smith, recounts the unlikely survival of her son John (played by Marcel Ruiz) after he was submerged for more than 15 minutes in a frozen lake. (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox)
By Kam Williams
Despite having a couple of generic American names, John Smith’s (Marcel Ruiz) life story has been anything but boring. It’s just too bad that the shy 14-year-old has been too embarrassed to share it.
He was born in Guatemala, but raised in Missouri by Brian (Josh Lucas) and Joyce Smith (Chrissy Metz), the missionary couple that adopted him as an infant. But even the terrific childhood they provided couldn’t supply answers to nagging questions that still burdened the boy in junior high, like wondering why his birth mom didn’t love him enough to keep him. John was so traumatized that he gave his teacher an excuse the day he was supposed to make a class presentation about his family tree.
Luckily, he did have a couple of buddies to hang out with in Josh (Isaac Kragten) and Reiger (Nikolas Dukic). However, the three could be a little rebellious, like on the afternoon of January 15, 2015 when they were warned by a stranger not to tempt fate by wandering out onto seemingly-frozen Lake St. Louis.
But they did, and fell through the ice, one after another. Rescue teams arrived soon enough to save two of the kids within minutes, but John had slipped so far beneath the surface that it took the extraordinary effort of one very determined fireman (Mike Colter) to belatedly find him by poking around in the 12-foot deep waters with a stick.
John had no pulse, since he’d been submerged over 15 minutes. Yet, that didn’t discourage first responders and then the ER physician on duty (Sam Trammell) at nearby St. Joseph’s Hospital from trying repeatedly to revive him. Miraculously, John did come around after about an hour, which prompted an airlift to the top doctor in the field (Dennis Haysbert) in the St. Louis area.
Thus unfolds Breakthrough, a true tale of survival based on a moving memoir by Joyce Smith. Since each step of the feat recounted here had been accompanied by prayer, the question triggered again and again is whether the operation succeeded because of state-of-the-art medical care, divine intervention, or a combination of both.
An edge-of-your-seat, faith-oriented medical drama, equally riveting in terms of spiritual and worldly concerns.
Excellent (***1/2 stars). Rated PG for peril and mature themes. Running time: 116 minutes. Production Companies: Fox 2000 Pictures/20th Century Fox. Distributor: 20th Century Fox.