At this point, This Is Us fans know that when Chrissy Metz is starring in something, it's bound to cue the waterworks. Her latest movie definitely delivers the tears. Breakthrough, out April 17, tells the incredible true story of a mother named Joyce Smith (Metz) who finds strength in her faith after her son John (Marcel Ruiz) falls through the cracks of a frozen lake, losing consciousness for an extended period of time.
The real Joyce Smith shared the details of the touching story in her 2017 memoir The Impossible, discussing the role that the family’s faith had in helping them endure this near-fatal experience. Per USA Today, John didn’t have a pulse for 45 minutes after he was rescued. His doctor and paramedics performed CPR for nearly half hour, but it didn’t work. Joyce knew she was at risk of losing her son, and finding herself in a time of peril, began to pray. “Holy God, please send your Holy Spirit to save my son. I want my son, please save him,” she remembered saying. What happened next is seemingly miraculous. The doctors immediately found that John had a pulse.
According to St. Louis Today, John was adopted from Guatemala by the Smith family when he was five months old. His father, Brian, had frequently made mission trips to Latin America and decided that, with Joyce’s approval, he’d adopt a son. The couple already had three grown sons and were able to focus their attention on raising him. John became Joyce’s pride and joy, and his near-drowning made her confront every mother’s worst fear.
In a featurette promoting the film, Metz talks about the power of this true story. “It’s hard to believe. And, you know, I’m a part of telling the story and it’s hard for me to believe,” said the actor. “This movie is described as a medical miracle because just that one idea — you know, patient dead, mother praying, patient came back to life — this is a modern-day resurrection story.”
But director Roxann Dawson says in the featurette, the point of the movie isn't solely that John survives, but rather that a community joined forces to help each other along the way. “It’s not just about one miracle,” noted the director. “It’s about a series of miracles. Those miracles happen to John, and to Joyce, and that family. But then, like a ripple in a lake, those miracles just keep moving out, the circle just keeps getting wider.” Joyce mentioned that the night John survived, there were at least 75 people gathering to show their support, “overflowing the waiting room out into the hallway.”
Golden State Warrior Stephen Curry, who worked as executive producer for the film, also notes the power in a story about people supporting one another. “Having people rally around John and his family in their time of need, people being really selfless and sacrificing their time and their resources… the power in a community and the power of faith is strong and is something that this world needs through and through,” said the player.
Per People, John is now 18, in good health, and traveling around the country to speak to other teens.