THE WAY BACK – A Review by Cynthia Flores
First off, The Way Back is not a family film because it’s rated R and not PG like the 1986 classic film Hoosiers that’s also about basketball. Both were about a coach with faults. However, that’s where they part ways. Director Gavin O’ Conner steps beyond just the game of basketball and wins with his new movie that uses the game and love of basketball as a common thread between a team of underdogs and its very damaged coach Jack (Ben Affleck). They all need a second chance at being better at life on and off the court.
The Way Back tells the story of Jack, whose glory days are long gone…but, as it turns out, not forgotten. Years later, in the depth of his isolated and lonely alcoholic life, he gets the chance to take back his life. He is asked to coach the struggling basketball team at his alma mater. Jack reluctantly accepts, surprising no one more than himself; as the boys begin to come together as a team and win, Jack may get his last shot at redemption.
The star of the film Ben Affleck offers, “It wasn’t a clichéd movie about sports or addiction; it was redemptive and inspiring. It subverted all of those expectations and was emotionally honest. I had been doing a lot more giant films and really wanted to probe deeper into something meaningful for me. I felt that this was emotionally powerful, and, as an actor, I thought, ‘Here is an opportunity to dig down and access these deeply private aspects of myself and share them as an artist.’ My hope is that the audience can project onto it their own lives and struggles and hopefully come away feeling encouraged with how they can approach them. Art in the sense of a real catharsis.”
I don’t want to scare you away from seeing this film because it is a good story that happens to be a sports film. However, it managed to avoid the cookie-cutter empty-headed Hollywood stereotype of what most sports films look like lately. Don’t get me wrong, there are still montages of the team in training and exciting action sequences, with games being won and lost. But there are also parts of the story soaked in booze and regret that Jack has to work through. Like I said, not your typical sports movie.
I give The Way Back 4-stars because it’s a solid drama and a good sports movie.
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor
Written by: Brad Inglesby, Gavin O’Connor
Running Time: 1hr 48min
Drama / Sport
Wide Release: March 6th
Starring: Ben Affleck, Janina Gavankar, Michaela Watkins, Al Madrigal, Brandon Wilson
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
4 Stars – Good movie
3 Stars – OK movie
2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for