Jack Cunningham’s life is a mess, when he is offered the basketball coach job at the high school he had attended and been an amazing player who had offers for colleges it looks like this could be just what he needed to help battle his demons.
*Original Title – The Way Back*
Although life really isn’t as simple as one thing being able to hide or stop another thing from taking over. Before being offered the coaching role we don’t really know very much about Jack. Other than he is an alcoholic, constantly drinking, hiding it at work, cans in the house and going to the same bar and carried out and back home. The way the story builds a picture of his current life was impressive but dropping in pieces of information. Leading us to realise how he has ended up in this state, separated from his wife Angela for almost a year and not wanting to be around his family.
Father Devine contacts him and when Jack goes to meet him he is quite frankly stunned to be offered the coaching role. The team have not won a game for a long time and he has never coached before. After getting extremely drunk that night he for whatever reason accepts the offer the next morning. The assistant coach and algebra teacher is Dan and very enthusiastic about Jack joining him and the team. Jack faces quite a battle with some of the members of the team, they have only won one game so far this season and don’t have many players. They hadn’t made the playoffs since Jack was a student, it was going to be a huge task and take up a lot of his time.
This looked like it was going to be a good thing to help him focus on the task and actually make a difference in the players lives. He actually manages to do this quicker than he probably realised himself. Getting them to work hard and as a team was a particular highlight, especially as they were a small team. But as he struggles to cope with the grief from his past the drinking at the wrong times happens and Dan becomes suspicious when finding cans in his office. As he starts to bond with the team his drinking does decrease and it really looks like he is about to turn a corner, but attending a birthday party for a boy who was in hospital with his son pushed him way back into it all.
Finding the Way Back is a truly emotional journey and as a viewer because we don’t know the full story instantly I found this to make the reveal of what happened even more devastating. I really wasn’t expecting it at all, the trauma of losing a child and pushing everyone away as well as turning to drink. While we only got part of the story it just felt that no-one was really trying to help him. It makes you feel utterly sad and helpless when watching and you wish you could do something.
Addiction must be one of the worst things to have to try and cope with yourself or see a loved one suffer from. I don’t have any experience of this personally and I always feel this type of film totally rips my heart out. Then you add in Ben Affleck’s truly outstanding performance after he has himself battled with alcohol, which raises the question how much of this was acting and how much was reliving his tortured past? An outstanding performance which I feel he deserves so much credit and even an Oscar nomination!
The sport and coaching side is very good as well, showing that being involved in sport can really help to change your life around. Working hard with a team and for other people does so much for you as a person and for your mental health. The film though doesn’t rely on it to be a quick fix and I loved that about the ending, it wasn’t going to be happy and easy. This was going to take a lot of time and that would be needed. A very important message, that this needs time and the person needs so much support.