Thomasville Times Enterprise

Opinion

April 19, 2014

'Heaven Is for Real' in Thomasville

On Friday, I found myself watching "Heaven is for Real" at the local theater. Making it even more special was happening to be able to do so when Rob Moran, one of the stars of the movie, was in town with his Thomasville native wife, Julie Moran.

 It’s the first time I’ve ever been sitting in the theater with someone who was actually up on the screen in the film.

 I have to be honest. I really wasn't sure what to expect from this film. I am perhaps the single most critical person I know of in regard to movies and television. I can count on one hand minus a couple of fingers the number of movies I have taken my time to watch in the last five years. I nitpick horribly, because I guess I feel the hours invested in watching the movie — hours I cannot get back — better be worth the investment.

 I don’t mean this to be demeaning, but most of the faith-based movies that I have watched have had the most sincere of intentions while at the same time have unfortunately felt a little amateurish. The messages were pure, but the delivery of the movie was done in somewhat of a less-than-professional manner. Not that that is particularly a negative overall, because often the message is more important than how it is delivered, and I get that.

 It didn’t take long to see that this film does not fall into that category. That shouldn’t come as a shock. Directed by Randall Wallace, the man who wrote the screenplay for the epic “Braveheart” (one of my all-time favorite films) and directed “Secretariat,” one of the most underrated films of the last decade), it is anything but amateurish.

 The film centers on the story of a four-year-old boy who has a near-death experience on the operating table, his recounting the tale of visiting heaven, and his father — a preacher, expertly portrayed by Greg Kinnear, who has visited Thomasville himself in the last few years — wrestling with whether he can actually believe the story from his son or not. Making it all the more interesting is the fact that the story is entirely based on a real-life experience from a very real family.

 There are several points that must be made. The movie never tries to convince anyone of anything. It never gets preachy. What it does do, however, is spotlight the struggle this father, this man of faith, has with his own beliefs. He “believes” heaven is real, of course, but when faced with acknowledging the heaven his son describes, he has to face a decision of simply accepting what is written in the Bible or actually accepting a very real account of a very real place his own son experienced.

 In telling about his experienced, the child shares stories, relationships that he never knew about, such as the existence of a sister he never knew who met him in heaven — a sister that was a miscarriage from much before he was ever born. Or details of things his father did with his own grandfather, up to an including identifying the grandfather from photographs the child had never seen.

 I found myself in Kinnear’s shoes — what if this were my own son telling such a story? How could his four-year-old brain conjure up memories of experiences and relationships he knew nothing about? Would I have enough faith — in my own beliefs and in my own child — to accept his story as real, as well as the ramifications that might come from it?

 Think about that for a moment.

 This Easter week, I cannot think of a better activity than for parents to take their families to see this film, and to make sure it is done as a family. It has the potential to create discussion on many levels that too many of us simply neglect to discuss for whatever reasons.

 And, I think for those who struggle with their own faith, their own beliefs, who question what is or is not real, it presents some very compelling lessons that might help you find a place of contentment and peace in regard to those questions. Again, the film will not “preach” at you, so put that out of your mind. Go in with an open mind, listen and see where your heart is when you walk out.

 As we left the theater, I noticed Rob Moran with his own children, two beautiful young ladies who look very much like their striking parents, and I thought about the cast of this film and their families. It is reassuring to know that maybe, just maybe, some of them are becoming more concerned about making products that produce light for the darkness than simply making money. Maybe, just maybe, Hollywood is finally seeing that it can be as much of an influence for good as it can for bad.

 It’s about time, and I salute Rob and his efforts — and I am sure his own children are quite proud of his role in that happening.

 “Heaven Is for Real” is here in Thomasville.

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