Set in Burleson, Texas, in 2011, the film centers on a 10-year-old girl named Anna (Kylie Rogers), daughter of Christy and Kevin Beam (Jennifer Garner). Anna is suffering from a pseudo-obstruction motility disorder and is unable to eat, using feeding tubes for nutrition. One day, she has a near-death experience, after falling 30 feet through the hollow of a Cottonwood tree and suffering only scratches. While unconscious inside the tree, with rescue workers struggling to get to her, she visited heaven. After being released from the hospital, she defied science and had inexplicably recovered from her chronic ailment.
Be sure to read the book written by Christy Beam, Miracles from Heaven, upon which the film is based. The old, enormous giant of a Cottonwood tree had always played a role in the lives of the Beam family. But never would they have imagined that their daughter would find her way to Jesus’s lap, will trapped in it.
God’s Not Dead is very much a film for Christian believers. The producers made the film for a tiny $2 million and so far, it has returned a fabulous $59 million at the box office.
In the world of low budget films, this is a miracle in itself. The film has found an audience, in spite of crushing reviews by the mainstream critical community. Christians will find their faith strengthened, scoffers will likely be bored.
The story comes from a series of actual court cases brought by the Alliance Defending Freedom which readers may remember as the Alliance Defense Fund, its previous name. The ADF specializes in litigation involving issues of religious freedom.
In the fictionalized and stylized movie version, a freshman enters a philosophy class dominated by a strongly anti-religious professor.
No movie of 2013 blasted us with such compelling and emotionally engaging images as “Twelve Years a Slave,” not by a long shot. I can readily understand the reason that the Academy gave it the Oscar for Best Picture. It does have some flaws, however. The bulk of the action happens in the deep deep South, but none of the actors speak with the slow cadences and inflections of that time and place. Further, very nearly every Black character speaks with the vocabulary and sensibilities of an educated middle class or higher person. This includes characters who are illiterate and who have never traveled further than 10 miles from their birth place. Even lower class white people speak in the language of the upper crust. It is somewhat off putting to have slaves and their cruel overseers speak like academics at a seminar, but I do not claim this as a fatal flaw. The brutal truth of the story bulldozes through all conventional methods of evaluating movies. I have an idea that the language comes from the original 19th century book, written by a well-educated and erudite free Black northerner.