THE WAY BACK – A Review by John Strange
As a student in high school, Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck) could do no wrong on the basketball court. Sadly, his homelife destroyed his love of the game. He then destroyed any chances his talent gave him and eventually became a (barely) functional alcoholic. He drinks before work (even in the shower), on the job, and then drinks until he can’t walk in the evenings after work.
And then the principle of his high school alma mater asks him to drop by. Why? To offer him the head coaching position with the hope that Jack can help save the team. And the team needs help, too. They haven’t had a winning season since Jack graduated. Jack is a bit horrified at the request. But he agrees to do it.
Slowly he begins to heal and the team begins to win. Along the way, he begins to help the team members grow and mature as well. The only hitches in the plan are the interactions with his family and ex-wife. And events that keep giving him the opportunity to back-slide to hide from the pain.
This is a film centered around basketball but the true core is recovery and redemption. It is a very hard movie to watch thanks to the darkness that Mr. Cunningham goes through. The end of the movie leaves us a bit drained, no, a lot drained. I liked the job that Ben Affleck did with the role in light of his real-life trials with alcohol abuse.
But The Way Back is a movie about a man trying to survive life and continually finding reasons to fail. The team of basketball players for Bishop Hayes High School is the one truly glowing light in his life. Their victories are his victories. Are they enough to heal him? Good question. This could have been a 3 Star movie thanks to the darkness of the film but my final grade is 4 Stars thanks to a strong story, great acting, and some really good sports sequences.
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor
Cast: Ben Affleck, Janina Gavankar, Michaela Watkins, Da’Vinchi, Hayes MacArthur, Rachael Carpani, Glynn Turman, Caleb Thomas, Inka Kytö, Marlene Forte, T.K. Carter
MPAA Rating: R (for language throughout including some sexual references)
Selig Rating: 4 Stars
Runtime: 108 Min.
Movie Site: www.thewayback-movie.com
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 it.