Surely the spiritual drama “Heaven Is For Real” will resonate deeper with people who are more churchgoing than I — but everyone can appreciate director Randall Wallace’s thoughtful exploration of faith and doubt.
The story, based on a memoir by Nebraska pastor Todd Furpo, casts Greg Kinnear as Furpo at a time when he and his family are dealing with several crises.
Todd’s garage-door business is suffering in a sour economy, and his wife, Sonja (Kelly Reilly), is considering returning to work. The Furpos have two young children, and Sonja is still nursing the heartbreak of a recent miscarriage. Todd suffers two medical setbacks: a broken leg (suffered in a town softball game) and an attack of kidney stones.
So the Furpos are in dire straits when their 4-year-old, son Colton (Connor Corum), is rushed the hospital with a ruptured appendix. While Colton is in the operating room, Todd goes to the hospital chapel and angrily asks God why he would take his son.
Colton recovers, and when he comes to, he has amazing news for the family: While he was on the operating table, he visited heaven, heard angels sing and sat on Jesus’ lap.
This news sends Todd into a spiritual tailspin as he tries to reconcile Colton’s story with everything he believes about his faith. Doubt begins to creep into his sermons, which concerns his parishioners — embodied by the ever-soulful Margo Martindale, playing a church board member who lost a son in Iraq.
Director Wallace (“Secretariat,” “We Were Soldiers”), who shares screenwriting credit with Chris Parker, only occasionally succumbs to the urge to bathe the screen in bright light and choral singing to depict Colton’s version of heaven. Mostly, he lets the performances serve as inspiration, and draws a strong one from Kinnear as he depicts Todd finding his religious beliefs conflicting with his faith in his son’s honesty.
“Heaven Is For Real” is made by people who believe the title to be true (Dallas megapastor T.D. Jakes is among the producers), and made for people who either believe it or are willing to entertain the possibility. If that’s you, the movie is likely to move you.
‘Heaven Is For Real’
A 4-year-old says he has seen heaven in a “based on a true story” drama about a pastor’s test of faith.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens today.
Rating • PG for thematic material including some medical situations.
Running time • 100 mins.