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Garner takes a journey of faith in uplifting 'Miracles from Heaven'
Christy (Jennifer Garner) on the front porch of their house in Columbia Pictures' "Miracles from Heaven." - photo by Josh Terry
MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN 3 stars Jennifer Garner, Kylie Rogers, Martin Henderson, Queen Latifah; PG (thematic material, including accident and medical images); in general release

Why do bad things sometimes happen to good people? Thats the question at the heart of Miracles from Heaven, and though it doesnt quite offer a definitive answer, it provides an uplifting story to enter into the equation.

Miracles from Heaven bears some strong similarities to 2014s Heaven is for Real. Both are based on true stories that involve near-death experiences, miraculous healings and the faith of young children. But where Heaven is for Real focused on the aftermath of the healing, Miracles from Heaven spends more time exploring how a family wrestles with its faith before the miracle arrives.

The narrative is built around a young mother named Christy Beam (Jennifer Garner), who lives in rural Texas with her veterinarian husband Kevin (Martin Henderson) and her three daughters. Life is rolling along with its usual stresses and strains when the Beam's middle daughter, Anna (Kylie Rogers), is diagnosed with a rare intestinal disorder that prevents her from digesting food.

The outlook is not good, and even the best accommodating measures only delay what often turns out to be terminal consequences. The only hope for Anna is a well-reputed doctor out of Boston named Dr. Nurko (Eugenio Derbez), but Christy fears that her daughter wont make it through his nine-month wait list.

So Christy packs Anna up and flies to Boston, where through almost sheer will she is able to secure an appointment with Dr. Nurko. The doctor cant make any promises, but he puts Anna on an experimental and expensive regimen that offers Christy and her family a glimmer of hope.

All of this is a set-up for the journey at the heart of Miracles from Heaven, which centers on Christys crisis of faith. Christy is a determined woman who refuses to take no for an answer, and when some members of her local congregation suggest that sin might be at the heart of her plight, her church attendance suffers along with her personal convictions.

Events later in the film reinforce the miraculous theme declared in the films title, but what makes Miracles from Heaven effective is the way it avoids the heavy hand many faith-based films employ to underscore their message. Miracles from Heaven has its share of dramatic plot points, but its most poignant moments are subtle instead of proclaimed from the rooftops.

Garner does an excellent job as Christy, a woman whose brazen determination echoes the lack of faith she holds for anyone other than herself. Her journey is complemented well by Rogers, who portrays Anna with a nice balance of sympathy and sincerity.

Miracles from Heaven also does well to be mindful of those who dont always get storybook endings for their trials. While in the Boston hospital, Anna meets a cancer patient named Haley (Hannah Alligood), and her journalist father (Wayne Pre) provides an effective foil for the films protagonist.

The individual parts dont always work, but the whole gets the job done in a satisfying way. Miracles from Heaven may be a bit of a generic title, and it may not answer all the questions nonbelievers might harbor. But it delivers a satisfying message in-between the opening and closing credits.

Miracles From Heaven is rated PG for thematic material, including accident and medical images; running time: 109 minutes.