Home > Reviews > MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN – Carlo Siliotto

MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN – Carlo Siliotto

miraclesfromheavenOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

There has been an interesting resurgence recently of films made by directors telling religious stories that promote Christianity in a strong, almost evangelical, light; contemporary films like God’s Not Dead and Heaven is for Real have done decent business at the box office, while more traditional period films like Son of God, and recently Risen and The Young Messiah, continue to prove to be a lure for believers. The latest of these contemporary Christian films is Miracles From Heaven, directed by Patricia Riggen, which tells the apparently true story of a young Texas girl named Anna (Kylie Rogers), who is suffering with a rare, incurable, terminal disorder that leaves her unable to digest food. Anna’s mother (Jennifer Garner) and father (Martin Henderson) have struggled unsuccessfully for years to find a cure for Anna’s illness, but everything suddenly changes when she accidentally falls out of a tree and suffers a serious head injury. When she wakes up, Anna claims that she ‘visited heaven’ while she was unconscious, while even more amazingly her doctor (Eugenio Derbez) reveals that, following the accident, Anna is beginning to show signs of recovering from her fatal condition.

Whether or not you believe in the religious core of the film is open for debate, but one thing for certain is that the film’s score, by Italian composer Carlo Siliotto, is worthy of exploration. Siliotto has only scored a handful of English-language features since relocating to the United States in the aftermath of his Golden Globe nomination for Nomad in 2005, with his most high profile film actually being the Mexican comedy-drama Instructions Not Included in 2013, which was written by, directed by, and starred this film’s main supporting actor, Eugenio Derbez. Throughout his career Siliotto has stood out as being a wonderful melody writer, and a superb dramatist, albeit a vastly under-appreciated one; Instructions Not Included was one of the best scores of its year, and works like The Punisher, Under the Same Moon, and the aforementioned Nomad, are all worthy of praise, but despite this he continues to fly somewhat under the radar, even in comparison to his Italian peers like Ennio Morricone, Dario Marianelli, and Nicola Piovani.

Miracles from Heaven is a much subtler, less ostentatious score than some of his other works, but it nevertheless contains more than its fair share of beauty, as one would expect from a film of this type. Fully orchestral (sans brass), with featured guitar solos by George Doering and piano solos by the legendary Mike Lang, the music generally maintains a similar style throughout its length, presenting a loving portrait of a wholesome American family and the extraordinary child at the center of the story. Much of the score reminds me of the type of music Mark Isham has been writing for those big-screen Nicholas Sparks romantic drama adaptations, like The Lucky One or The Longest Ride, albeit with slightly more meat on its musical bones.

Siliotto’s main theme, as first heard in the opening cue “Heaven,” is pretty and gentle, with a piano lead line and a sentimental string wash, augmented by chimes and light metallic percussion to give it a magical feel. The melody itself reminds me very much of the theme for Maggie from Instructions Not Included – it has a similar sense of child-like innocence – and its appearances in cues like “I’m In,” “Shower,” “You Get There,” and “Angels,” are genuinely lovely. Further performances of the main theme present it with subtle emotional and instrumental variations; “Monet,” for example, features a pretty solo piano version with a slightly ethereal sound, while “No Pain” rearranges it for a tender solo oboe.

The use of George Doering’s guitars gives the score an earthy, nostalgic quality. Sometimes they have a warm, Mediterranean glow, as in the end of “Heaven,” but they also convey a sort of Texas soft rock/country vibe during their appearances in subsequent cues like “A Happy Family,” “First Night,” “The Motorbike,” “The Tummy,” and the unusual “Angela,” which has a sunny, almost Latino edge to the piano lines, and an unexpected “ooh ooh ooh” vocal effect which is fun but has a faint whiff of cheddar. Some of these cues also feature more rhythmic percussion ideas, both tapped and shaken, upping the tempo of the score for a brief moment or two. Elsewhere, “The Aquarium” is an unusual unique cue which combines ghostly vocal coos with tinkling metallic percussion and an otherworldly, vaguely Hornerish vibe, before returning to the country/rock rhythms.

The moments of doubt and uncertainty mostly concern the family’s anguish at Anna’s illness, and often feature darker–hued orchestral performances augmented by occasional synths. “First Hospital,” for example, cleverly uses the synths as quiet pulses that appear to mimic the throb of a heart monitor, in combination with worried-sounding piano lines, while “The Fall” uses a similar sound palette, with an increased string presence, to underscore the dangerous event at the center of the film’s miraculous plot twist. Similarly, “Loss of Faith” showcases some moody woodwind passages and has an undercurrent of uncertainty, while “The Clinic” uses metallic percussion to add a new level of harshness.

The longest cue on the album is “The Prayer,” which explores a series of unexpectedly dark tremolo string phrases which gradually grow in intensity, climaxing with a searing cello solo. Some of these cues also add in some understated vocal effects, murmuring softly, which gives “Please Figure Out” and the aforementioned “The Prayer” the right amount of magical wonderment. The final three cues – “My Beautiful Daughter,” “The Church, and “Dear God” – end the score on a soft, intimate note, with reflective, respectful piano tinkles, and a warm, appealing finale, with more prominent strings and harp glissandi.

The only real criticism one could make regarding the score is the fact that it is so understated. For a film about, from a Christian perspective, the successful power of prayer and the realization of a genuine miracle within a loving American family, there is a distinct lack of anything truly celebratory to acknowledge this; Siliotto’s music is enduringly lovely throughout, but it never rises to embrace a spine-tingling moment of religious glory. In addition, the themes themselves are a little on the anonymous side, and are unlikely to stick in the memory of anyone bar the film’s most ardent fans. Despite that, Miracles from Heaven remains a pleasant, tonally appealing score which will undoubtedly find an audience. Personally, I’m very happy that Carlo Siliotto is finally making in-roads into the North American film market – a composer with his talent and dramatic sensibility should have a much bigger presence than he currently does – and I hope that the box office success of Miracles from Heaven results in him being hired to score more films, especially ones which give him a chance to really shine.

Buy the Miracles from Heaven soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Heaven (3:04)
  • A Happy Family (2:52)
  • First Night (1:42)
  • I’m In (0:44)
  • First Hospital (1:58)
  • Waiting (0:50)
  • Loss of Faith (2:30)
  • Why Do You Think… (0:38)
  • The Motorbike (1:09)
  • Never Back (1:02)
  • I Do What I Was Told (0:44)
  • The Tummy (1:46)
  • Angela (1:54)
  • The Aquarium (1:04)
  • Monet (1:15)
  • The Clinic (1:17)
  • Sometimes (1:19)
  • Abbie (1:17)
  • No Pain (1:13)
  • Shower (1:36)
  • Right Now (2:31)
  • The Fall (1:01)
  • The Prayer (5:52)
  • The Doctor (1:04)
  • You Get There… (0:45)
  • Please Figure Out (2:38)
  • Angels (1:45)
  • My Beautiful Daughter (1:15)
  • The Church (1:10)
  • Dear God (1:16)

Running Time: 49 minutes 28 seconds

Madison Gate Records (2016)

Music composed and conducted by Carlo Siliotto. Orchestrations by Lorenzo Carrano and Gianluca Cerchiello. Featured musical soloists George Doering and Mike Lang. Recorded and mixed by Jorge Velasco. Edited by Joanie Diener and Drew De Ascentis. Album produced by Carlo Siliotto.

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  1. John Mansell
    April 6, 2016 at 11:53 am

    Thanks Jon ,always liked this composer.

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