Breakthrough (12A)**

Dir: Roxann Dawson

With: Chrissy Metz, Marcel Ruiz, Topher Grace

Runtime: 116 minutes

“WE don’t do God,” Alastair Campbell, former spin doc to Tony Blair, once ruled when the boss was asked by an interviewer about his faith. So much for an ex-Prime Minister; do cinema audiences do God?

They do in America, hence this Christian drama adapted from the book by Joyce Smith. According to Box Office Mojo, Breakthrough has made $37 million in the US so far. Hardly Avengers, but it is not nothing.

Breakthrough has certainly had one of the softest cinema launches I can remember. Particularly given it is the first Disney distributed film since the company took over Fox, one might have thought there would be more noise.

Based on a true story, Breakthrough features the Smith family from Lake St Louis, Missouri: Brian, Joyce, and their adopted son John (Josh Lucas, Chrissy Metz, Marcel Ruiz). John is 14 and going through the stage in life where he is pulling apart from his parents, much to the dismay of his doting/clingy mother. Mum is none too happy either about the arrival of a trendy new pastor (played by Topher Grace) who likes to spread the word through the medium of soft rock.

During a stay at a friend’s house, John follows his pals on to a frozen lake. A dreadful accident duly ensues, one that will test the faith of his parents and their community as never before.

Cinema has often “done” God, mostly via the biblical epic. With the likes of The Robe, The Ten Commandments, and The Passion of the Christ, it is obvious what the content is going to be. Contemporary Christian storytelling, be it in books, on TV or in the cinema, tries to take a more subtle, nuanced approach. Breakthrough, for example, asks the question of why God helps some and not others (it doesn’t answer but at least it raises the subject).

Despite a strong story and fine performances, the film’s urge to spread a message quickly becomes too much and the rest is a slog from then on.