When it comes to dramas about someone recovering from a personal event or issue, it really comes down to how well it’s made. These days, everything has been done in terms of recovery stories, but that can be said about every genre I guess. THE WAY BACK is the latest addiction drama to hit the big screen but is now immediately available for purchase at home. This film may hit too close to home for some, so I will recommend this movie with a large asterisk of caution, but here’s why I think it’s a great film nonetheless. THE WAY BACK deserves to be seen in my opinion.
After separating from his wife and turning to alcohol in a life-threatening way, Jack Cunningham is given a chance to prove himself and clean up his act when he’s offered the opportunity to coach a high school basketball team. Having been a player himself, he knows the ins and outs of the game, which will, in turn, make him a great mentor, albeit strict. Of course, with movies like this, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows and his past comes back to haunt him, which reveals much more about this character’s past. It can be slightly melodramatic at times, but those aspects are still very well-done and may even be a little much for someone if they are able to relate.
A movie like this truly needs a powerful central performance or it simply won’t work. Ben Affleck, who went through a divorce and had alcohol issues in real-life, portrays Jack, and I believe it’s one of his best performances, maybe ever. Much like Lady Gaga in A STAR IS BORN (2018), your best performances come from something you can relate to. If the Oscars were being held today, I wouldn’t have any hesitation giving the best actor award to Affleck. His sincerity and pain on his face throughout the entire duration of the film hit me really hard. The best performances come from the heart, and this film absolutely showcased that.
Now, I didn’t think THE WAY BACK was perfect, because by the time it reaches its second and third acts, you kind of know what to expect, but there are elements of how everything plays out that kept it from being too predictable. If for nothing else, it’s incredibly effective in terms of emotion. What I did feel could’ve used a little more depth was within the team itself. There was one great character on the team, but the rest felt like stereotypical teenagers that were there so that the focus wouldn’t be taken off Ben Affleck. That’s fine because the point of the movie definitely isn’t the team, but for the amount of screen time they get, there could’ve been a little more detail to their characters.
Overall, THE WAY BACK is one of the better movies that I’ve seen so far in 2020, even though there isn’t much to watch at the moment. As I said, it may hit too close to home for some, but I would ruin a few moments in the movie if I got into them. I’ll just say, even though there are elements of happiness and hope, this is a very sad film about someone trying to find themselves after being lost for so long. Even though the movie felt familiar as a whole which will keep me from giving it a perfect score, I thought it was very well-directed by Gavin O’Connor and Ben Affleck sucked me in from start to finish. Even though it probably won’t be an easy watch for
some, I absolutely recommend it.