Miracles From Heaven is not just about heaven. It’s about the miracles across the street.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle, ” said Albert Einstein and in the uplifting Miracles from Heaven we experience the rousing portrait of a family suddenly discovering joy and promise in the most tumultuous moment of their lives.
Based on Texas mom Christy Beam’s inspirational memoir, this astonishing true story of the girl rescued by an out-of-the-blue accident is directed by Patricia Riggen (who recently directed the superb The 33), from a screenplay by Randy Brown (Trouble with the Curve).
Everybody comes to a crucial moment in life when they feel they’re flat out of options. Maybe it’s a daunting health crisis. Maybe it’s family troubles or a tough emotional dilemma, but one way or the other we’ve all hit that brick wall where hope, faith and everything that usually sustains us through the day-to-day seems to evaporate, leaving the mind reeling with massive questions with no ready answers. These moments can take us down; but it is also in these moments that the unpredictable beauty and grace of life can suddenly beguile, surprise and utterly change us.
Christy Beam was in exactly that position when she began the story that became her inspirational memoir, Miracles From Heaven. She was living an undeniably blessed life in Texas with her veterinarian husband and beautiful family of three vivacious daughters. But then, her middle daughter Annabel got sick. Diagnosed with a heart wrenching, fatal disorder – one that left her unable to digest the food most of us take for granted as one of life’s pleasures – Annabel was in dire straits. The best doctors on earth were at a loss for a solution. And all of Christy’s relentless, ceaseless efforts to heal her daughter seemed to be failing. Though absolutely unwilling to give up on the outside, on the inside, Christy was terrified, uncertain, lost.
Then, in an instant, everything changed. It began with a shocking, headlong tumble into the core of a hollowed-out cottonwood tree and it turned into both a headline-making rescue and a stunning result no scientist could adequately explain. Annabel herself had an amazing personal story to tell: a memory of a heavenly encounter that dispatched her back to her family. But for Christy, her daughter’s inexplicable recovery was only the beginning. For her daughter’s seemingly rare miracle became a moment that transformed their daily lives – as Christy began to see just how many day-to-day miracles had graced their path: from the kindness of a stranger, to the compassion of a brilliant doctor, to the candid conversations that rekindled the entire family’s sense of purpose and belief.
Beam notes that big, logic-defying mysteries such as Annabel’s can serve as reminders that subtler wonders surround us on a regular basis – and she hopes through her family’s story more people will take solace in knowing how life-changing a single act of compassion or kind word can be.
Says Beam: “I used to think a miracle came with a flash and a boom and a loud voice but now I know a miracle is also goodness, it’s love, it’s when things work that have no reason to work. To me, it’s the showing of God’s hand. There are miracles that are great and huge such as walking away from a 30 feet headfirst fall. But there are many small miracles in life too and I’m so grateful to embrace those now and watch for them every day. After everything that happened, I made a conscious decision to not take any of the little, amazing moments of life for granted.”
It was this insight into what happened to her family – and the amazing people and events that bolstered them every step of the way — that gave Beam’s memoir an eye-opening perspective and galvanized readers of many faiths and backgrounds. “Since so many people seemed to connect with our story, I wanted to pour my heart and soul onto the pages,” says Beam of her frank, open style. “Our life was literally displayed for all to see because I felt people needed to understand the various aspects, good and bad, of what we endured in order to better help them face their own struggles.”
Beam introduces a vision of faith that is reinforced by what can only be called grit – the passion and effort to keep going, to keep trusting in a path forward, even when your heart isn’t sure what it is. She was committed to being honest about her confusion, fear and imperfect strength so that others feeling alone in the dark might see there is a way through. “I wanted people to know that, no matter what your challenges are, there is hope,” she says. “To start, you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and embrace all that you cherish.”
Written with the sharpness and suspense of a literary page-turner, Beam’s book quickly attracted a publisher. But even before the book hit the shelves, the manuscript caught the attention of three filmmakers on a search for the most broadly appealing, modern stories of love, family and faith. This was the producing team behind the hit 2014 movie Heaven Is for Real: Joe Roth, T.D Jakes and DeVon Franklin.
They saw in Miracles From Heaven a gripping story of a family battling impossible odds that would be riveting on screen. But the fact that it also grappled passionately with universal questions of life, death and the meaning of it all was what made it irresistible as their next project.
Recalls DeVon Franklin: “We were looking for an inspirational, uplifting story that could be an organic follow-up to Heaven Is For Real, but we weren’t finding it. Then I read Christy’s book and I got that same feeling again. It was so compelling. It was a page-turner. And it was so honest about how families really deal with uncertainty. My partners Joe Roth and T.D. Jakes felt the same way and we moved very fast. We bought the rights in August and a year later, the movie was made.”
For T.D Jakes the film’s appeal was wide-ranging. “What I love about this story is that it is not only about miracles. It’s about families and struggle. That’s as real life as it gets. I believe it’s a powerful, provocative story about how a family survives adversities. It’s a film that gives hope and this is a time when people need hope,” says Jakes. “It’s also a film about fighting for what you believe in … and sometimes fighters aren’t burly men; sometimes they’re tough mamas who refuse to give up on their kids. So you will see faith in this film, and you will also see fear and people fighting against that … and the most powerful part is that you might even see yourself.”
The team was especially exhilarated by Beam’s take on the nature of what miracles really are in modern times and why they still speak to ordinary people even in these highly skeptical times. Beam’s POV — that miracles are not merely the rare phenomena that defy science but are everyday occurrences of beauty and benevolence accessible to anyone — stood out as an original theme.
To turn the Beam family’s roller-coaster narrative into a taut feature film structure, the filmmakers of Miracles Are From Heaven immediately recruited screenwriter Randy Brown, who previously penned Clint Eastwood’s baseball drama Trouble With The Curve. He compressed the story into a high-wire act in which mounting suspense combines with deepening love to create a distinctive portrait of a family pulling each other through darkness into an amazing adventure.
Meanwhile, the search was on for a director. That search took the project in an unusual and fittingly rare direction – to a rising female director from Mexico. Born in Guadalajara, where a surgeon father and poet mother raised her, Patricia Riggen seemed to possess that mix of technical savvy and open heart Miracles From Heaven demanded. She had come to the fore with the acclaimed, low-budget drama Under The Same Moon, about a Mexican’s boy’s search for his mother in the U.S., then was handed the major challenge of bringing to life the Chilean mining disaster that trapped dozens of men deep underground in The 33.
No stranger to family crises, Riggen felt a profound and immediate personal connection to Miracles From Heaven.
“I identified a lot with Christy because I had a family member with an incurable disease who passed away a few years ago,” she explains. “I am all too familiar with that world of hospitals and the struggles of mothers and I thought it was so beautiful to see things turn out well in this story. I relate to emotional stories. I relate to human stories. I love to show goodness in people and this film was going to allow me to truly do that. For me, what makes this story so special is that you see a family and community coming together and you see that goodness is all around us.”
Sums up DeVon Franklin: “One of the most interesting ideas in our film is that even though Christy was always praying for a big miracle, she didn’t realize until later they were all around her the whole time. There were miracles of love and forgiveness, miracles that were simple, selfless acts of kindness. We loved that idea that the movie would be about more than the remarkable miracle of Anna and the tree. It’s equally about what we can do on a day-to-day basis to be there for each other, to be that miracle someone else needs.”
Adds T.D. Jakes: “The film does an amazing job of reminding us of our most basic instincts: to love our own, to care for our kids, but also to go the extra mile … and when you see somebody who is really in trouble to stop and pay attention and try to help them. In today’s world that alone can be a miracle. The human spirit is at its best when when it goes beyond the do’s and the don’ts to say ‘I can help.’ Miracles From Heaven is not just about heaven. It’s about the miracles across the street.”