Letters to God

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Letters to God
Letters to God poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by David Nixon, Patrick Doughtie (co-director)
Produced by David Nixon, Kim Dawson, Tom Swanson, Art D'Alessandro
Written by
Edited by Patrick Tyler
Distributed by Vivendi Entertainment
Release date
  • April 9, 2010 (2010-04-09)
Running time
110 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3 million
Box office $2,908,893[1]

Letters to God is a 2010 Christian drama film directed by David Nixon and starring Robyn Lively, Jeffrey Johnson, Tanner Maguire, Michael Bolten and Bailee Madison. The story was written by Patrick Doughtie about his son Tyler, with the screenplay penned by Doughtie, Art D'Alessandro, Sandra Thrift and Cullen Douglas. The story took place in Nashville, Tennessee, but the movie was filmed in the Orlando, Florida area.

Letters to God is based on the true story of Tyler Doherty, who was played in the film by Tanner Maguire. Parts of the story are real, and others were fictionalized, such as the character of a drunken mailman named Brady McDaniels (Jeffrey Johnson), who receives Tyler's "letters to God". The film was released to theaters on April 9, 2010, with mixed reviews. Despite opening at #10 at the box office, it fell just $92,000 short of its $3 million budget with a final gross of $2.9 million.


Tyler Doherty (Tanner Maguire) is an 8-year-old suffering from cancer who has a love for writing and sending letters to Jesus. His local postman, Walter Finley (Christopher Schmidt), takes them to his office after work. His boss sees them and instructs Walter to take care of them.

Later Mr. Finley goes on an extended vacation, causing an alcoholic named Brady McDaniels (Jeffrey Johnson) to replace him temporarily. Brady is a regular at the "Bar and Grill" and close to the bartender, Jack, his former commanding officer in the military. On his first day of work, Brady is chased and bit by Mrs. Baker's dog, "Rooster," and is confused by the "Letters to God" that he picks up from the Doherty house.

That same day Tyler returns to school after two months of brain tumor surgery, MRIs and radiation. The Doherty family has been through a lot; in addition to Tyler's cancer, they have also lost Patrick Doherty, Tyler's father. Tyler's first day of school starts off with Alex, who makes fun of Tyler for being bald and having little eyebrows. In response to one episode of this, Tyler's friend Samantha Perryfield (Bailey Madison), pushes Alex's face in his mashed potatoes, causing them to be sent to the principal's office. In response to kids making fun of Tyler, Samantha takes him to her grandfather, Cornelius Perryfield (Ralph Waite), who tells him that he has been picked by God for a special mission.

Tyler sends more letters to God, with Brady picking them up each day. Brady initially wants to give them to a church, but the pastor says that Brady should keep them. Brady reads some of them, and they inspire him to be a better person. Brady develops a close relationship to the Dohertys and to Mrs. Doherty, Maddie (Robyn Lively) in particular. Ben (Michael Bolten), Tyler's older brother, became upset at how life at the house revolves around Tyler, who hearing his words threatens to jump off a second-story porch roof in response. Ben then tells Tyler that he is not mad at him, but misses the fun times they had together when Tyler was healthy, and is afraid of losing him. In response Tyler has Ben write his own letter to God.

Maddie later reads Ben letter that inspires her to be a better mother and takes goes Ben to get his driver's license. Later, Tyler finishes getting chemotherapy and is released. The nurses remind Maddie that Tyler's body is not very fit yet. Brady and Tyler both plead with Maddie to let Tyler's play on his soccer team. During the game, the soccer coach, accedes to Tyler's plea to play goalkeeper. His team wins, but Tyler then faints and is taken to the hospital. Brady is angrily blamed by Mrs. Doherty for encouraging Tyler to play, but she later apologizes. It was shown later that Brady had been in jail for DUI, and that his son, Justin, was taken away from him by his wife. He turns away from his old life, and throws away his whiskey, and later thanks God for giving His Son to for giving him (Brady) his own son back. At a talent show, Ben sings and Brady and postal workers bring in bags and bags of letters to God, including those from others that Tyler inspired. Brady also shares how Tyler impacted his life, enabling him to find faith in God. Tyler later succumbs to his illness, and passes away at home. Samantha dedicates a mailbox for letters to God, saying that "His life was a letter to God."

The film closes with snippets of others of faith who battled and sometimes beat cancer,



David Nixon (far left) and Pat Doughtie with young actors Tanner Maguire and Bailee Madison on the set.

Pat Doughtie and his dying son, Tyler, became a major story in Nashville, Tennessee when Julie Buchanan was convicted of stealing money from the boy's cancer fund. In caring for his son, Doughtie lost his job and his house, and soon his son died as well. "Once he passed, I decided to write a book," said Doughtie, who was unsure of where telling his son's story would lead. Doughtie took a screenplay class and soon wrote the original script for Letters to God. It was noticed by Christian filmmaker David Nixon, who co-produced Sherwood Pictures' successful Christian films Facing the Giants and Fireproof.[2]

It was assumed that any story involving Tyler would include Julie Buchanan, who stole money from his cancer fund; however, Tyler's true-life cancer is instead fictionalized: an alcoholic mailman intercepts Tyler's letters to God. Doughtie wanted Letters to God to be shot in Nashville, but it was ultimately filmed in Orlando, Florida for financial reasons.[3] David Nixon, Tom Swanson and Kim Dawson are leading a group of investors in the development of three faith-based movies through Possibility Pictures, the first being Letters to God. The film had a production budget of approximately $3 million.[4]

Possibility Pictures[edit]

Logo of Possibility Pictures

Possibility Pictures is an Orlando-based Christian film production company, created by David Nixon, Kim Dawson (producer) and Tom Swanson (executive producer). Letters to God is their first production.[5] The company is designed to be the "DreamWorks of faith-based movies."[6]


Letters to God was released to theaters on April 9, 2010. Nixon said he hoped the film to run in theaters for three to four months, then for it to go to Blu-ray and DVD around July or August 2010.[7] It was released on DVD August 10. The official trailer was released Christmas week, but Christianity Today was given early access to it.[8] The filmmakers said Tim McGraw has agreed to show the movie trailer at 16 of his concerts because he lost a family member to cancer.[9]

Box office[edit]

Letters to God released to theaters on April 9, 2010 in 897 theaters. It debuted #10 at the box office with $1,101,204.00 in its opening weekend.[10] Similar to recent Christian film To Save a Life, Letters to God received strong box office results in smaller markets with a higher concentration of Christian moviegoers, including Charlotte, North Carolina, and Columbus, Ohio. Tracking for the film was highest among families and females.[11] The film dropped 43% in its second weekend, $620,580, accumulating $2,020,830 in two weeks.[12] It closed in June 2010 after grossing $2.85 million, falling just $150,000 short of its budget. Total domestic video sales have amounted to slightly over $6 million.[13]


Letters to God received mixed reviews: generally negative from mainstream film critics and far more positive from Christian ones. It has a 25% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on twenty reviews (however it has a 72% rating from audience reviews), and a 31% at Metacritic based on seven reviews. John Beifuss of The Commercial Appeal called the film a "sometimes moving, sometimes awkward blend of sentimental family drama, childhood cancer education and Christian proselytizing".[14] Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel gave the film 1½ out of 4 stars, "Letters to God is certainly family-friendly, [but] the blandness robs it of whatever emotion or redemption the filmmakers were shooting for."[15] The NYC Movie Guru gave the film a positive review, "Letters to God manages to be a bighearted, uplifting and captivating drama for all ages. It will inspire you to open your heart compassionately and to find hope, faith and comfort throughout your life’s hardships."[16]

The film was extremely well received by Christian film critics. The Dove Foundation gave the film five stars.[17] Phil Boatwright of the Baptist Press called the film "A triumph. One of the best films you and your family will see all year." Ted Baehr of Movieguide said, "Letters to God is an impressive movie. It is extremely well written. The dialogue is edgy and drives the story forward. The production quality is first rate. There is even great attention to the music... the type of movie you want everyone to see, one of the most encouraging and inspiring movies in a long time."[18] Plugged In said, "Letters to God actually goes well beyond the tried-and-true tale of a sweet kid who has cancer. It does so by adding the spiritual dimension."[19]


A CD featuring music from the movie and a song performed by Anne Marie Boskovich was released April 22, 2010. It has currently sold 3,000 copies.[20]


  1. ^ Gray, Brandon (April 20, 2010). "Letters to God (2010)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 20, 2010. 
  2. ^ Ferrier, Dennis (April 6, 2010). "Film About Boy's Illness Premieres In Nashvill e". WSMV-TV. Retrieved April 6, 2010. 
  3. ^ Ferrier, Dennis (August 26, 2009). "Dad Makes Movie About Son's Cancer Struggle". WSMV-TV. Retrieved April 7, 2010. 
  4. ^ Boatwright, Phil (July 8, 2009). "FIRST-PERSON: Fireproof co-producer readies new film". Baptist Press. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved November 12, 2009. 
  5. ^ McNary, Dave (October 11, 2009). "Vivendi puts faith in 'God'". Variety. Retrieved November 12, 2009. 
  6. ^ Boatwright, Phil (July 8, 2009). "FIRST-PERSON: Fireproof co-producer readies new film". Baptist Press. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved April 22, 2010. 
  7. ^ Highland, Eric (April 2010). "Letters to God Interview With Filmmaker David Nixon". HOSFU. Retrieved April 6, 2010. 
  8. ^ Moring, Mark (December 17, 2009). "'Letters to God' Trailer: A CT Exclusive". Christianity Today. Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  9. ^ Blaylock, Jeannie; Taren Reed (April 7, 2010). "Faith-based Movie Letters to God, Shot in Orlando Gains Popularity in Jacksonville". First Coast News. Retrieved April 9, 2010. 
  10. ^ Gray, Brandon (April 11, 2010). "Weekend Report: 'Date' Might Draws, 'Titans' Fall, 'Dragon' Gets Stoked". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 12, 2010. 
  11. ^ Stewart, Andrew (April 15, 2010). "Distributors put faith in church". Variety. Retrieved April 16, 2010. 
  12. ^ Gray, Brandon (April 20, 2010). "Weekend Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 20, 2010. 
  13. ^ "Letters to God (2010)". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved 22 December 2015. 
  14. ^ Beifuss, John (April 9, 2010). "Please Mr. Postman: 'Letters to God' – A Review". The Commercial Appeal. Retrieved April 10, 2010. 
  15. ^ {{cite web Uknet gave it 4 out of 5 stars "Inspiring and tragic and at the same time leaves you with a feeling of hope and love" |url=http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/entertainment_movies_blog/2010/04/movie-review-letters-to-god.html |title=Movie Review: Letters to God |last=Moore |first=Roger |date=April 7, 2010 |work=Orlando Sentinel |accessdate=April 7, 2010}}
  16. ^ "Reviews for April 9th, 2010". The NYC Movie Guru. April 9, 2010. Retrieved April 10, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Letters to God Review". The Dove Foundation. Retrieved April 10, 2010. 
  18. ^ Baehr, Ted. "Letters to God: Inspiring Heroism". Movieguide. Retrieved February 24, 2010. 
  19. ^ Hoose, Bob; Steven Isaac (April 9, 2010). "Movie Reviews: Letters to God". Plugged In. Archived from the original on April 12, 2010. Retrieved April 12, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Carrie Underwood gets CD sales bump from ACMs, 'Idol Gives Back'". USA Today. April 28, 2010. 

External links[edit]