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The Way Back (2020 film) - WikipediaReview

The Way Back (Drama, Sport) (2020)


Director: Gavin O’Connor

Writer: Brad Ingelsby

Stars: Ben Affleck, Al Madrigal, Janina Gavankar, Jeremy Radin

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Back in his high school days, Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck) used to be a great basketball player; in-line to get a scholarship and eventually turn pro, however ultimately he walked away from basketball never to put on a jersey again. In adult life, Jack’s experiences have led him to a path of hardship, alcoholism and difficult bonds with family. Working a blue-collar job to get by, he suddenly gets contacted by his old school with the offer to coach the basketball team, and hesitantly he accepts.  

Seldomly do we see a sports/drama, or any film for that matter that gives us such a dramatic yet eerily realistic view into a character and his surroundings. Whatever type of family you come from there is likely a comparison to be drawn between someone related to you and Jack, that on its own is not an achievement many films can attain. At points, the prevalence of the coaching part in The Way Back falls by the wayside as the story takes some time to focus on Jack’s personal life purely and the demons he’s facing this creates two different sides of the movie that feel almost cordoned off from each other yet intermingle now and again; akin to Jack’s efforts to keep his addiction away from the public eye.

Affleck’s portrayal of Jack is commendable. From the first time you see the struggle with alcohol, family issues and separation; every scene makes you feel more for the character on his way to possible recovery. The manners and style given to the character work on a more subtle and more profound level; he isn’t overly grumpy or written in a way just so the viewer can easily understand his character. The expressionless character of Jack is used as a velour between his struggles and emotions and his new part-time function as a coach. Apart from Affleck the supporting actors such as Al Madrigal and Jeremy Radin also did a great job of building on top of the strong foundation laid by the lead, despite the heavy focus on personal struggle and drama there is a good laugh to be had at Jack’s confrontations with the team’s pastor the anguish on the face of the pastor even sometimes enough when Jack gives one of his rousing mid-game speeches to the team.

If anything I’d describe this film as a Drama-Sports movie and not the other way around. There is a noticeable lead-up to where the basketball team spent exploring Affleck’s character. At the same time, I would’ve liked to have seen a little more of a weave between the sports and the drama it eventually felt better once you come to terms and understand the flow of the film.

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I’d take the way back and watch it again.