Title – The Way Back (2020)
Director – Gavin O’Connor (Warrior)
Cast – Ben Affleck, Janina Gavankar, Al Madrigal, Brandon Wilson
Plot – Troubled alcoholic Jack Cunningham (Affleck) reluctantly accepts a job coaching his old school’s basketball team, where he may find one final shot at redemption to overcome his personal demons.
“They don’t think you can hit the ocean from the beach”
Review by Eddie on 15/04/2020
Director Gavin O’Connor is on the record stating that his newest feature The Way Back is a drama with basketball in it, rather than a basketball film with some drama in it, so for those seeking a staple sporting flick, The Way Back may leave them disappointed in what it can offer them.
What else The Way Back is, is arguably the finest showcase yet for its star Ben Affleck, who after much publicized battles with alcoholism confronts his demons head on in his role as depressed and volatile one time basketball prodigy turned divorced alcoholic Jack Cunningham, who takes up a job coaching his old high school’s basketball team, in what could be a life changing opportunity.
Affleck is as raw and believable as his ever been as Cunningham, a man whose history and circumstances slowly make themselves more apparent as the run-time of the film wears on in what culminates in a fully-rounded character that we can’t help but feel empathy towards.
The Way Back might not be as solid overall as O’Connor’s previous sport centred masterpiece Warrior but much like that film and O’Connor’s well liked hockey drama Miracle, The Way Back’s in-tune dealings with moments of humanity, vulnerability and emotional dealings ensures this is top notch dramatic film-making.
As his done in past times, O’Connor manages to handle clichés of the genres his dealing with in proficient and meaningful ways and this is evident across The Way Back’s narrative as some of it falls completely in line with what you expect of a redemption story such as this but many elements are subverted also, as Cunningham’s journey is anything but a clear cut and predictable one as his mental state of mind and addiction fuel the story forward into unexpected territories.
Throughout all of this Affleck remains front and centre throughout the entirety of the film, at times some scenes are almost hard to watch when you consider the actors personal circumstances but through his first hand dealings with a potentially life threatening illness, Affleck has been able to bring a stunning realism and emotional connection to his role here, enhanced further by Brad Ingelsby’s script and one of the year’s best scores courtesy of Rob Simonsen.
Final Say –
Not the sporting film many might be expecting, The Way Back takes us into an emotionally charged study of one man’s battle’s to overcome his weaknesses that takes us to a memorable destination, that is at all times lead forward by an awards worthy performance from Ben Affleck.
4 concerned chaplains out of 5