Reply to comment

My First Miracle

It's December, and all one 17-year old girl really wants for Christmas is the chance to make it to eighteen. Angelica (Katya Martín) has Myelodysplastic Syndrome, a rare cancer that causes bone marrow to produce bad blood cells. It's treatable with the right bone marrow donor, but as with any such donation it's hard to find a match. Her dad Mark (Matthew Rauch) and her mom Heidi (Valerie Cruz) are working hard to pay the bills -- chemo is crazy expensive -- but otherwise all they can do is wait.

Meanwhile, Brandon (Quinton Aaron) is doing his best to look after his little brother Tommy (Elijah Jacob), who has bone cancer and also a sweet little crush on Angelica, his chemo buddy. Her parents call her Jelly, though she says that they do so just to annoy her, in typical parent fashion. But for the most part, both Jelly and Tommy are in the same holding pattern -- at least a homeless teenager named Sean (Juan Castano) enters Jelly's life.

Sean and the cello-playing Charlie (Sean Patrick Flanery) are living rough on the streets, but both, in their own ways, are struck by their first sight of Jelly, who stops to put money in Charlie's hat while he plays. Sean is just instantly smitten, but for Charlie, she looks a great deal like someone he knew a long time ago, and both their lives change in that moment.

But Jelly is still in desperate need of a donor match, while Sean has a troubled past that forces him to hide even from his own little sister (Jessica Cherniak), living in foster care. Charlie is haunted by demons from his past that even the well-meaning Father Lawrence (Jason London) can't exorcise, and both Brandon and Jelly's family are facing financial crises under the weight of hospital bills. It seems impossible for any of them to have a happy ending, but with a hint of the miraculous at work, maybe some of them will manage it after all.

The film is naturally sentimental but thankfully never crosses the line into being saccharine. These are real people facing problems that are all too common, people sometimes making bad choices and sometimes failing. But there's also a strong sense of community that I liked very much -- many of the characters don't know each other well at the beginning, if at all, but by movie's end they've all joined together in many ways to form an extended family. Certainly they've all affected each others' lives, leaving memories that will never be forgotten.

I'll give it four and a half out of five. The acting is all solid, with Sean Patrick Flanery a particular standout for me, but then, I always like the cynical characters best. Even so, underneath the cynicism he isn't ready to give up yet, just like the rest of the characters. No matter how bleak things get they all keep trying, and that's a big part of what helps keep the film both grounded and hopeful. In the end, sometimes it's just about getting through one more day.

Movie poster. Note Charlie and his cello spreading a little Christmas cheer.


  • Allowed HTML tags: <abbr> <acronym> <address> <bdo> <blockquote> <del> <hr> <img> <ins> <pre> <q> <sub> <sup> <dl> <dt> <dd> <ul> <ol> <li> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6> <table> <caption> <col> <colgroup> <tbody> <td> <tfoot> <th> <thead> <tr> <b> <big> <cite> <code> <dfn> <em> <i> <kbd> <samp> <small> <strong> <tt> <var> <u> <br>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options