Last month alone, we saw the release of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah (a biblical theme, though not marketed as a “faith film”) and Christopher Spencer’s Son Of God, both providing good entertainment.
It doesn’t end there either as a string of similar films are set to follow: from God’s Not Dead and Exodus to this promising release, Heaven Is For Real – based on the best-selling non-fiction book of the same name.
Heaven stars Greg Kinnear (Todd Burpo) and Kelly Reilly (Sonia Burpo) as the parents of four-year-old Corum (Colton) who, after a near-death experience, claims to have gone to heaven.
Colton didn’t die but speaks about leaving his body during an operation for a burst appendix. He describes looking down on the doctors as they operated on him, before seeing his parents in the hospital; his dad yelling at God in the chapel and his mother crying on the phone to her friends. That’s a scary concept to digest: can the dead really observe our every move? Colton also tells of angels singing, meeting unknown relatives and sitting on Jesus’s lap.
When asked what heaven was like, he replies: “Like here, but better.”
The Burpo family are upright citizens, with Todd being the pastor of their neighbourhood church – but belie-ving their son’s testimony puts their faith to the test. The matter not only causes tension between Todd and his wife but with members of their church community as well, as they express worries about the unwanted attention. And given the family’s financial problems, Todd losing his job is not an option.
Their feelings of doubt are justified. Kelly passes it all off as her child having a vivid imagination. But soon Colton starts revealing facts about the fami-ly he has never been privvy to; things he would never have known unless someone told him, such as the knowledge of another sister who died in his mother’s womb.
The film has a clear agenda, explicitly spelled out in the title, but it’s not likely to convert sceptics. The depiction of heaven is far too vague and wordly to appeal to non-believers. It would have been better for director Randall Wallace to leave it up to viewers’ imagination. There are moments of spiritual grandeur that will tug at the heart-strings of mo-viegoers regardless of their beliefs, however.
Heaven Is For Real has a well-written screenplay and a talented cast. Wallace also links his story to another: that of a young
girl who paints pictures based on a similar experience. The film provides enough evidence that seems to support Colton’s story and no one can dispute what he experienced. Those going to see the film are likely to have their minds made up before the opening scene. It’s just a matter of watching it play out. Quite frankly, the movie raises more questions than answers.