A former high-school basketball star (Ben Affleck) who's now struggling with alcoholism is offered a chance to coach his former team in a last-minute change. As the team begins to slowly turn their fortunes around, so to does he begin to confront his own issues and struggles.
It's easy to look at something like a sports movie and be aware of the tropes and cliches that inform it. Most - if not all - sports movie rely on the audience acknowledging and understanding those tropes. By all accounts, 'Finding The Way Back' operates within these, but there's far much more going on beneath the surface that brings up some uncomfortably raw moments for Ben Affleck.
For one, Affleck's own battles with alcoholism are mirrored in the story - but even without that knowledge, his performance is alert, present and human in a way that he hasn't been in years. You can tell that he is, to paraphrase a sports parlance, leaving it all on the screen and the movie is elevated above the somewhat hum-drum nature of the story. When the movie pivots to the basketball arena, you can tell that director Gavin O'Connor has a reverence for the game and believes in how it can be a healing process.
So much of 'Finding The Way Back' is wrapped up in the small moments, whether it be in how Affleck's character plays drunk and knocks his thumb against a can, or how his face blots red. There may be a simplicity to them, and the story itself, but it's honest and clean in a way that only lived experienced can be. Moreover, the movie never lets itself pull into melodrama in a way that other sports movie tend to. The script breaks down Affleck's character in a way that ultimately doesn't lead to a final victory, but rather to a place of healing and rebuilding - and that's something far more powerful.
'Finding The Way Back' is an honest, open-hearted story about redemption and renewal, whether it be told through sports or broken down fathers, and with a powerful, awards-worthy performance from Affleck.
Available on demand from July 10th. Here's where to find it.