"Heaven Is for Real" Set to Be Most Touching Film of the Year

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing
April 14th, 2014

"Heaven Is for Real" is an upcoming 2014 film based on a book that is a retelling of a true story of one young child's description of his trip to heaven. The book was written by the child's father, Todd Burpo, as the child, Colton Burpo, was only 4 years of age when he had the experience during an emergency appendectomy. The book debuted in 2010 and was quickly met with praise and a trip to the New York Times best-sellers list. The book remained in the top 10 for some months with over 200,000 copies in print. When news of the movie was revealed, the book made it to number one among non-fiction paperbacks.

In "Heaven Is for Real," actor Greg Kinnear plays the father of Colton Burpo, a pastor of a small church in Nebraska. A young, unknown actor by the name of Connor Corum plays Colton, and a British actress named Kelly Reilly plays Colton's mother. The story centers around Colton's tale, that came out over the course of a few years, of visiting heaven during his emergency appendectomy. Some of the amazing details of the boy's story include knowing exactly where his parents where during the surgery, finding out about his miscarried sibling that his parents never told him about, and meeting a great-grandparent that died three decades before his birth. All these details should have been impossible for Colton to know, and yet, he expressed them to his father in great detail. The tale of his miscarried sibling is especially poignant as he told his parents that he had met his sister in heaven. He then corrected his mother that he had two sisters, not just one. He then asked her to confirm that a child had "died in her tummy" and she was amazed at this revelation.

Greg Kinnear spoke highly of the film and its source material, saying that the child playing Colton has a natural gift for acting. He further went on to say that the film is far beyond the majority of material that is generally called inspirational. He said it was difficult to be cynical in the face of the boy's story and incredible retelling of it. Kinnear is not alone in this assessment, as preliminary reviews tell a similar story of cynics and skeptics being softened by the tale. The story's power is hard to deny when there are very few other explanations for the child's knowledge of these details, other than simply saying that the parents made it up.

"Heaven Is for Real" is less about making a claim of faith, however, and more about sincerely detailing a very real human condition. Nearly every person questions what comes after life, even those who do not have a religious tradition. The movie captures the realness of an average family living in an area of the country that most do not even think twice about, and then their incredible, unexplained story. In the end, it is that relatable realness that brings this movie close to home for audiences, whether from Christian traditions or not. This normality is what seems to have hit a chord with even atheist audiences at pre-screening events. One woman claimed that she tried hard to find fault with the characters and their faith, but failed. The characters, despite being Christian, are not portrayed as perfect or having an easy life. Todd Burpo is portrayed as having a challenging time deciding on whether to spread his son's story because of how unbelievable it was.

Nevertheless, skeptics of the film and story still exist, and they come from both sides. Skeptics of a non-Christian persuasion often cite the fact that the boy was never declared medically or clinically dead, therefore making it unlikely, as far as they know, for him to have an out-of-body experience. They also say that some of his descriptions of heaven are simply the result of his upbringing, despite the fact that he was only 4 at the time and could not have had too much detail on that fact. Skeptics on the Christian side have said that Colton's descriptions of heaven do not mesh with the Bible in several places. One part that is usually brought up is his description of angels and other souls in heaven having wings. However, angels in the Bible are not described as having wings and neither are souls in heaven.

However, the sales of the book cannot be denied and early reports say that the film easily lives up to the book's reputation, with all actors delivering touching performances. Skeptical accounts are likely to make more moviegoers want to see for themselves whether heaven is for real.