As I get older, the mystery and wonder of what comes next after this life enters my mind more and more. Maybe that’s why a movie like Heaven Is For Real and tales like it have such resonance with us. We want to know what’s next and have certain wishes and hopes for what it could be.
Based on the true story (and resulting book), Greg Kinnear stars as Todd Burpo – a preacher and garage door repairman from Nebraska. Life is tough, but he has his wonderful wife, Sonja (Kelly Reilly), 2 kids, good friends and a congregation of churchgoers who love and respect him.
A series of negative life events have started taking their toll on the Burpos, and they now face their greatest crisis when young Colton (Connor Corum) suddenly becomes ill from a ruptured appendix. It’s a near death experience that rocks the family and their finances, but what Colton has to say about the matter is what truly causes concern. The young, 4-year old boy claims he went to heaven, and the tales he tells give his story amazing credibility.
Heaven Is For Real is an extremely emotional movie, and writer/director Randall Wallace, along with writer Chris Parker, makes it a religious movie that never proselytizes or tries to force the audience into believing. Sure, it declares heaven is real in the title, but each character and each person watching is given the chance to consider the possibility, or lack of it. It’s a realistic portrayal of the questioning and sensationalism that would follow such claims by the young boy, and how each person who comes into contact with him and his story would be left wonder.
Wallace does have some troubles getting the movie going. Early on in Heaven Is For Real, we spend far too much time on background information learning about Todd and his struggles, the family’s relationships with each other and Todd’s standing in the community. It all could be accomplished a bit quicker, especially since the heart of the movie is Colton’s experience and the fallout from sharing his story, which could have used more time and explanation. It’s the meat of the story, and Wallace is spending too much time serving up the appetizers.
This is an amazing cast. Kinnear is awesome, and this could be considered among one of the best performances of his career. He brings an honesty to Todd’s struggle with life, its challenges, and what his young child is telling him. Kinnear shows the inner turmoil Todd experiences when presented the ultimate proof of what he has been preaching, believing and learning all of his life, yet, can’t embrace it.
Meanwhile, Reilly, Margo Martindale and Thomas Haden Church bring a steadiness to the proceedings that is needed given the subject matter. Each one is measured in all of the right ways as their characters respond to the events around them. We don’t have a bunch of histrionics here, and you will be glad for that.
Heaven Is For Real is a movie that does make you question faith, and might even give you a bit of hope about the future.