Based on the N.Y. Times best selling book written by Pastor Todd Burpo, the film relates the real life story of his four year old son Colton's near death experience of Heaven while being operated on for a ruptured appendix.
The family is picture perfect, as is the beautiful Nebraska setting. Todd (Greg Kinnear) is pastor of the neighborhood church. He has a loving wife Sonja (Kelly Reilly), a pretty young daughter and adorable son Colton (played by expressive and believable Connor Corum). They are very involved with their small community. Sonja has choir practice at her home and plays softball on a team that includes her husband. Todd coaches teen wrestling and is a volunteer firefighter.
Besides being a pastor, he also does odd jobs for extra money. However money is tight all around, because we see him accepting carpeting in lieu of cash for repairing a business garage door. All and all, besides being cash poor, life seems to be pretty satisfying for the family, until his son's life changing incident occurred.
Todd and Sonja treated Colton at home for what they thought was the flu, however when his fever continued for four days, they brought him to the hospital. He had a ruptured appendix and was in critical condition. He's rushed into emergency surgery, and while waiting for the doctors to come out, Sonja calls church members to pray for her son and Todd goes to the little chapel in the hospital where he yells at God. After Colton recovers, he tells his dad that he saw his parents and what they were doing while he was on the operating table. Over the next weeks, he also says that he sat on the lap of Jesus, saw angels singing and that he met people that had passed away years before he was born, while he was in Heaven.
His son's revelation shakes Todd's beliefs and causes his church's board to question his ability to continue as their pastor. The film focuses on his faith and how he searches for answers. He questions his friends and even calls on a college professor who does not believe in God. One of the best parts of the film is a revealing talk that he has with a church board member (Margo Martindale).
Director Randall Wallace gives us a meaningful family film that makes you think. It has a talented cast (Thomas Haden Church also costars as a banker friend of the family), and gorgeous scenery, but Kinnear's performance is what brings it all together. You can always count on him for delivering a solid, believable character.