- Spoilers start here.
John Smith (Ruiz) is a 14-year-old Guatemalan boy raised in Lake St. Louis, Missouri by his adoptive parents, Brian (Lucas) and Joyce Smith (Metz). Though they are loving and supportive, John struggles with feelings of abandonment from his birth parents, and rebels against his parents and teachers.
In school, John’s class is assigned to give a presentation about their family backgrounds. On his day to present, John admits he did not do the assignment. His basketball coach, who had promised him a starting position, warns John that if he gets a failing grade, he will be benched. John later gives a half-hearted presentation, saying that everyone already knows he is adopted and he does not know much about his true background.
Later, John and his friends Josh and Reiger go out onto a frozen lake, ignoring a neighbor’s warning. The resident calls the police, and all three boys fall through the ice. Josh and Reiger manage to swim to the surface and are rescued by first responders. Two rescuers dive in, but are unable to find John. As they are about to give up, one of the rescuers, Tommy Shine (Colter), hears a voice telling him to go back. Thinking it is his chief, he tries again, and manages to lift John to the surface.
With no pulse or breath, John is taken to the local hospital, where an emergency team works frantically to save his life. After John still fails to register a pulse, the attending physician Dr. Sutterer gives Joyce a chance to say goodbye. A weeping Joyce cradles her son in her arms, pleading with the Holy Spirit to not let John die, at which point a faint pulse registers. Dr. Sutterer recommends transferring John to a better equipped hospital, citing Dr. Garrett (Haysbert) as an expert in cases like John's.
After John is transferred and placed in a medically-induced coma, Garrett warns his parents that he has little hope for John's recovery, and that if he were to pull through, he would likely live in a persistent vegetative state. Jason Noble (Grace), the family’s new liberal pastor with whom Joyce has frequently clashed, visits the hospital, and Joyce slowly warms to him. Like Joyce, he regards John's progress as divine intervention. John shows some signs of consciousness: he is able to hear Joyce and Noble and respond with squeezes to the hand, and a tear trickles from his eye as a crowd gathers to sing and pray for his recovery.
Joyce turns John's possible recovery into an obsession, harassing his health care professionals and alienating those around her, including her husband. In a heated moment, Joyce tells Brian that if not for her, John would be dead. After a brief and hurtful rebuttal, Brian storms off. Realizing she cannot control John's outcome, Joyce retreats to the roof of the hospital to pray, asking God for forgiveness and submitting to His will. It begins to snow, which she believes is an answer. She and Brian meet with Garrett, who tells them that the drugs they have been administering are becoming toxic to John’s system and may be doing more harm than good. Joyce, who had been adamant about saving John's life at all costs, suggests stopping treatment and bringing him out of the coma, stating that she is ready for whatever fate brings. Garrett agrees.
John is revived and slowly regains consciousness, reliving his accident. He hears his mother's voice and opens his eyes, with full cognitive ability. A few days later, he is discharged from the hospital and returns to school.
John's return, though welcomed by many, is met with some resentment by others, who question why John was spared while their own loved ones died. This weighs on John's mind, and he returns to the lake, where he sees Tommy Shine, and thanks him for saving his life. Tommy admits that he did not believe in God until after a series of protracted events since John's accident, and all he did was pull John from the water.
John reconciles his survival with a renewed sense of purpose in his life and rebuilds his relationships with those he had been alienating. An epilogue reveals that John is pursuing a career in ministry after graduating from high school.
- Spoilers end here.
- Chrissy Metz as Joyce Smith
- Josh Lucas as Brian Smith
- Marcel Ruiz as John Smith
- Topher Grace as Pastor Jason Noble
- Mike Colter as Tommy Shine
- Sam Trammell as Dr. Kent Sutterer
- Dennis Haysbert as Dr. Jeremy Garrett
- This is the first 20th Century Fox film to be distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, despite the "Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures" in-credit text not appearing in the end credits (due to the film being finished before the completed merger).
- Due to being released on the same day as Disneynature's Penguins, this marks the first time Disney theatrically releases two films on the same day since the 3-D double feature theatrical reissues of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 back in 2009.
- In addition to Disney's completed acquisition of 21st Century Fox (including 20th Century Fox) and further release date changes, it also marks the last time both a Disney film and a 20th Century Fox film have been theatrically released on the same day.