Finding the Way Back
Ben Affleck takes a break from playing superheroes like Batman and the Accountant in this sports drama about an alcoholic construction worker and former high school basketball star. The same Catholic high school (apparently negligent when it comes to background checks) invites Jack (Affleck) to coach the struggling basketball team, giving the beleaguered barfly and his young team a shot at redemption.
If that sounds familiar, you might have watched a sports movie before – the most obvious precedent being Coach Carter. With the added religious element, this is essentially Coach Martyr. One scene in which Jack has to persuade a sceptical father to watch his son play ball is straight out of Friday Night Lights. But where most films of this nature put the sport front and centre and have the coach’s baggage as background, Finding the Way Back inverts the formula by focusing on Jack’s alcoholism and daddy issues and making the basketball almost incidental. While this approach is unusual, it’s also unsatisfying, failing to intersect the two narrative hoops and basically making it the story of an alcoholic who happens to briefly coach basketball.
Affleck’s sad, gruff performance towers over the pedestrian drama; with his face like a deflated basketball, this tragic figure is a better fit for the actor than his recent action roles. The downbeat tone is reflected in the picture’s dim colour palette and a score more depressing than the failing team’s match results. Director Gavin O’Connor executes some energetic basketball sequences and scores points for examining the players’ need for male role models, although it’s never clear what they find inspiring about Jack, beside his ability to drink beer in the shower without inadvertently swallowing soap.
Despite a strong bounce back from Affleck and a surprising benching of the sports side of the drama, Finding the Way Back ultimately fails to find its footing.
Finding the Way Back is released digitally on demand on 10th July 2020.
Watch the trailer for Finding the Way Back here: