Heaven is for Real is a refreshing take on life beyond death, the struggle of a man with his faith, and the great question that most humans ponder: Is heaven really for real?
Most Christian movies set foot on the trappings of a typical Christ-centered story: The character struggles, he prays to God, he finds strength, he faces the difficulties, and others join him. The central theme of “trust in God and the rest is okay” is not the main concept here; instead, Heaven is for Real battles between “regular” faith and the real soul-deep fact-not-theory faith. It’s a film that will surely put its viewers on edge as they watch preacher Todd Burpo (played by Greg Kinnear) contest with the ideas of Heaven recounted by his 4-year-old son Colton (Connor Corum), who had a near-death experience during surgery.
Todd Burpo is a man of many things — a loving father, a hard-worker, a coach to a high school wrestling team, a fireman volunteer, and a preacher in his local church. His down-to-earth sermons reflect his personal life with his wife Sonja (Kelly Reilly), who spearheads the church choir, daughter Cassie (Lane Styles), and son Colton (Connor Corum). During the first few minutes of the movie, Todd faces many challenges concerning his health and the financial stability of his family. But through these adversities, his faith in God remains firm and unshakable. However, he is yet to meet another series of tribulations that will rock his core beliefs.
(Spoiler Alert — critical plot-points ahead — skip to the next section if you plan on watching the movie.)
During a family trip, Colton gets so sick that he needs medical treatment. His appendix was found to have ruptured. He’s in a dire situation and surgery is needed for him to survive. With prayers to God from the people who loved Colton, his family, and the church members, he survives. Later on, Colton shares with his family revelations of a journey he had that transcended life and death. He narrated how he saw himself fly out of the surgery room and go to Heaven, where angels sang. There, he met his dad’s grandfather, his sister who died in a miscarriage, and Jesus, who rode on a rainbow-colored horse. This is where Todd’s spiritual belief is contested. His uncertainty about Heaven and the vivid reality of the place, as compared to an idea, takes him on a roller-coaster ride with family and other church members.
Randall Wallace making good use of his source material
Adapted from the real-life Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent’s best-selling book, Randall Wallace did a fantastic job of bringing the story to the big screen. Dean Semler, the cinematographer of the film, did justice to the mysterious wonders of the film with his widescreen cinematography touches. The cast did exemplary performances as well, both main and supporting. Kinnear is truly the center of the film as he effectively portrays the sensitive performance of a man of faith struggling with his belief. But of course, hands up to child actor Connor Corum with his adorable act. Overall, Heaven is for Real is a movie that both Christians and non-Christians can enjoy. As Todd’s wife Sonja asks him in the movie: “Why can’t this just be a mystery?,” to which he replies, “Why does Heaven have to be a myth?”
Similar real-life visitations to Heaven
Landon Whitley was 8 years old when he experienced his trip to Heaven. He and his mother recounted on CBN how he met his dad, his dad’s friend, and siblings he never knew who died in miscarriages.
Dr. Mary Neal, an orthopedic spine surgeon and an avid kayaker, fell into a waterfall and was trapped underwater. According to her, she met heavenly beings who took her to Heaven, but her trip was cut short when she was told that it wasn’t her time. She later wrote her book To Heaven and Back after the experience.
Brian Miller, a man in his 40s, met his mother-in-law and her husband after following a surreal path lined with flowers. But it wasn’t his time, his mother-in-law said. Soon after, he woke up and found out that his heart had stopped for 45 minutes.