Actor love. Animal love. Tearjerker love. Everything about this movie is designed to zipline straight into the deepest part of my heart chambers and build a home there.
First of all, did you know that Martin Henderson's character is a vet? Because I did not and now I'm dead. Also there is entirely gratuitous shirt-changing in the first 5 minutes and now I'm dead again. I can't even wrap my head around the sheer amount of sweet family scenes there are, both happy and sad, as well as parents supporting each other on their own. It's just everywhere, all the time, except for the stretch where it's just Mom and Anna in Boston, and even then, their bond is equally incredible.
The daughters are just as well cast as the parents; they all have chemistry with each other and I 100% believed they were related. And also, can we talk about this family having 5 dogs? Because the dogs get some screen time. So do their 3 cows and 2 pigs and donkey.
But what gets the lion's share of screen time is tears, pain and secondhand pain. I didn't even know you could work hurt/comfort to your advantage in this way and I still can't wrap my head around it. I only took one live viewing note, but it's worth mentioning:
67 minutes: Little girl is crying about how she wants to die so she can go to Heaven where there's no pain, and then apologizing to Mom for making her sad by saying that, and yo, I have held out against the tears all the way up to here but TIME TO BAWL.
I even watched all the special features, because it turns out the entire real family is incredibly cute and sweet and nice and charismatic. They should get All The Good Things Ever for the rest of their lives. A movie deal is a good start -- plus they got to spend time with Jennifer Garner and Martin Henderson during the development of this film, and I have to believe they at least were fully aware of who the former is, so huzzah for them.
Literally the only flaw of this movie is that some of the music montages get overly long and annoying. And there might be a few too many pastor speeches in church. Admittedly I don't know what Martin Henderson's accent was doing -- was he supposed to still be from New Zealand? Was it an attempt at being Southern that didn't quite get there? I listened to parts of the commentary and the director claims it was flawless Texan, haha okay -- but not enough to count it as a flaw.
In sum: the densest concentration of hurt/comfort per minute I have ever met, or at least the densest with the most amazing faces attached.