Ben Affleck stars as Jack Cunningham, a former high school basketball star who stepped away from the game, throwing away what would have been a promising future. Only to come back years later, and reluctantly accept a coaching gig at his former school to get one last shot at redemption. That’s of course if the demons he’s been battling throughout his life don’t haunt him into shame and giving up.
Dialog, acting, characters, production value, etc. are pretty darn good in THE WAY BACK. It’s an honest portrayal of a man suffering with personal grief and alcoholism. However, it still suffers from mimicking other films running on the same narrative. You can trace the story’s arc and call what will happen throughout its run. But that doesn’t mean it falls flat. Surprisingly, Affleck holds this piece down. He’s quite a special attraction in this film. Having opened up about his personal struggle with alcoholism, I’m sure this is a role that touched his soul by having pulled from his own dark places in order to display it on screen. Trust me when I say this film gets deep, dark and heavy at times.
Therefore, I conclude, don’t go into this thinking it’s a “sports movie.” While basketball and coaching serves as backdrop and vehicle for redemption, this same exact film could have a backdrop written about taking a job as a teacher, counselor, social worker, etc. Maybe not as appealing, but the end result more than likely would have felt the same. Generally, the movie rides a seesaw of emotions. It’s designed to. There are a few lighter scenes, but I’d say more than half of the film is dramatic and played out with full intention to make you run a gauntlet of misery with the film’s protagonist.
The film deserves respect on many levels. But seriously worth the time for Affleck’s performance. Definitely one of the deepest I’ve seen him give since… forever! A definite mood-setter, as well as a piece that’ll trigger uncomfortable feelings and conversations for those who have personal connections.
Run Time: 1:48
Starring: Ben Affleck, Al Madrigal, Janina Gavankar
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor
Official Movie Website: https://www.thewayback-movie.com/