We don't watch films like the inspirational Miracle at Manchester because we want a mystery. We don't watch films like Miracle at Manchester because we want doubt. We're not even necessarily looking for stark realism. No, we watch a film like Miracle at Manchester because we believe in miracles and because we want to believe in miracles with every fiber of our being.
As people of faith, we watch a film like Miracle at Manchester precisely because it affirms our faith that ours is a God who is still in the business of miracles.
Now then, if you have any doubt at all where Miracle at Manchester is going, you need only reflect upon its title for maybe, oh, about 5-10 seconds at most.
Still not sure?
Well then, perhaps you'll catch on when you realize that Bryce Newman, the young man at the center of this story, also shares a co-writing credit for it. Miracle at Manchester tells the story of Bryce (Kory Getman), a high school student and promising athlete who is diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer and who, well, you can probably figure it out for yourself by now.
There's never really a moment of doubt contained within this March 31st Pure Flix release, though we're not watching Miracle at Manchester because we doubt but instead because we absolutely, unequivocally believe.
And so it goes.
Now then, some may find it more than a little unusual for a film journalist, himself actively and currently dealing with cancer (Hey, that's me!), to enthusiastically embrace the challenge of reviewing the latest in a long line of inspirational cancer miracle flicks. However, others may very well say "Wow, perfect timing." The truth is that there's no doubt I was more deeply impacted by Miracle at Manchester because I felt its story deep within my soul. I felt the fears. I felt the anger. I felt the doubts. I felt the faith. I felt the belief. I felt the loneliness and I felt the connection. I felt it achingly and I found myself crying, okay sobbing, openly. The connection to the film is so strong that I have to laugh that I live about a mile away from Cathedral High School here in my hometown of Indianapolis.
Personal experience aside, I still am resolute in acknowledging that Miracle at Manchester is a mighty fine film.
Miracle at Manchester centers around Brycen "Bryce" Newman, a multi-sport athlete at San Diego's Cathedral Catholic High School who is diagnosed with medulloblastoma. The film, directed by Eddie McClintock in his feature directorial debut, captures the community that surrounded Bryce and how that community helped to sustain him during his months of treatment and ultimately through to his miraculous healing.
Kory Getman shines brightly as Bryce, capturing his conflicted bravado, his fear, his vulnerability, and his determination to persevere even when things began to look incredibly bleak. McClintock is also here as Bryce's father Richard and wonderfully portrays Richard's journey through an array of emotions and ultimately toward the restoration of his faith. The always wonderful character actor Daniel Roebuck is exceptional as Ed Hanson, a man who quietly uses his mechanic skills to fix cars for the veterans living in his community and a man whose path will cross with Bryce when his wife (Kathy Patterson) becomes one of his primary nurses and takes an interest in his Make-a-Wish opportunity.
Dean Cain, an ever-increasing regular in faith-based cinema, proves once again to be one of the faith-based film world's most dependable actors as Dr. Getty while Brennan Hunt adds a tremendous amount of heart and warmth as Bryce's girlfriend Alex.
Truthfully, the entire ensemble is strong here.
While the subject matter in Miracle at Manchester is most certainly serious, this is a film that inspires from beginning to end with a myriad of feel-good moments throughout and a script by Jason Campbell perfectly primed to warm the heart and affirm one's faith. Lensing by Matt Ruby is warm yet bright and immersive while Emmanuel Segarra's original music amplifies the film's emotional resonance in all the right moments. As an added bonus, Rachel Platten's "Fight Song" is utilized wondrously within the film and over the film's lengthy but quite wonderful closing credits that help to emphasize the ways in which Bryce has given back to the community that loved him so deeply. A culminating scene inside Manchester Stadium has enough syrup to make Aunt Jemima jealous and I cried the entire time.
Miracle at Manchester is everything you want an inspirational, faith-based film to be and so much more with a strong ensemble cast and crew clearly connecting deeply to this rich, meaningful story and bringing it powerfully to life. Watch it for yourself on Pure Flix starting March 31st!
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic