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Not recommended under 10, Parental guidance to 13 (adult themes).

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Breakthrough
  • a review of Breakthrough completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 30 April 2019.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not recommended due to adult themes.
Children aged 10–13 Parental guidance recommended due to adult themes.
Children over the age of 13 OK for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Breakthrough
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes.
Length: 116 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Based on true events, Breakthrough follows an episode in the life of 14-year-old John Smith (Marcel Ruiz), the adopted son of a devout Christian couple Joyce and Brian Smith (Chrissy Metz and Josh Lucas) who falls through thin ice while playing with friends out on a lake. Despite the fact that he is under water for over 15 minutes and is unresponsive for 45 minutes before being pronounced dead at the hospital, John’s mother prays a heartfelt and emotional prayer over her son’s lifeless body begging God to breathe life back into her child. Almost as soon as these words are uttered John’s heart begins to beat again. It is weak and he is not expected to survive but time and again John defies the odds. With Pastor Jason (Topher Grace) there for emotional support and under the watchful care of Dr Garrett (Dennis Haysbert) the parents find the strength to endure criticism, the hopelessness of others and the heartbreak of what is happening to their child. Joyce believes that God will save her son. Despite all the evidence indicating that to be medically impossible she has absolute faith that he will be healed and as their community comes together to pray, countless hearts around the nation are touched and lives are forever changed by the miracle that only one woman saw coming.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Christian faith; adoption, serious accident with the possibility of death, and fervent faith in God in the face of impossible odds.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • John and a classmate shove each other after a disagreement on the basketball court.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Some young viewers may be scared by all the equipment being used to keep John alive.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • When John’s mother sees him lying dead on the hospital bed and she is told to say her goodbyes, her grief is palpable, sobbing, crying out to God, and begging Him to save her son. The emotional intensity of this scene could be too much for some viewers.
  • When doctors are removing John from the induced coma in the hopes of waking him up he suddenly began jerking violently on the bed while his terrified parents watched in the background.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • When the boys fall through the ice and are trying to save each other, John accidentally gets kicked in the head and goes under. He struggles for a moment but then sinks down into the icy darkness.
  • In the hospital doctors desperately try to save John and are injecting him, performing CPR, cutting his clothes and electrically shocking his heart. The scene is very intense and emotionally charged.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • There is nothing in this film that would frighten children over the age of thirteen.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • John has a pair of Nike Air Jordans which are prominently displayed in his room, mentioned on several occasions, and which his mother brings with her to the hospital to help inspire her son to heal. When John returns to school he wears the shoes on his first day back and during his next basketball game.
  • Dunkin donuts are offered to staff, and Pastor Jason brings Starbucks coffee to Joyce every day in the hospital.
  • Pastor Jason preaches to his congregation using a detailed example of The Bachelor and The Bachelor in Paradise as an analogy.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • The boys in John’s class say that they are going to see some “hot girls.”

Nudity and sexual activity

  • There is no nudity or sexual activity.

Use of substances

  • The film contains no use of substances.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • The term “Hell” is used twice. John starts to say “bull-“ but his mother stops him from finishing the phrase. “Stupid” is used once.

In a nutshell

Breakthrough is an emotional drama based on the miraculous, true, story of John Smith. All the actors give excellent performances and while the film contains numerous powerful and positive messages it is best suited to older children and mature audiences. Parents should be aware that this film contains strong Christian messages and themes.

The main messages from this movie are that we all have a purpose in life, the value of trusting in a higher power, to love unconditionally, and realise that “yesterday is not ours to recover but tomorrow is ours to win or loose.”

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Gratitude.
  • Determination.
  • Faith.
  • Unconditional love.
  • Hope and Prayer.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Not listening to adults who are giving safety advice such as playing on ice or somewhere else that they shouldn’t. The consequences were very clear in the film, but this can be used as an example for other dangerous situations.