Written and directed by Gavin O’Connor (The Accountant), The Way Back is the very human story of addiction, depression and redemption for Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck). Once a former high school basketball star with a bright ahead of him, Jack is now washed-up, struggling with alcohol addiction. However, things start to turn around when he gets an opportunity coaching a basketball at his old high school. Unfortunately, like Jack himself, the team is a failure, struggling to get anywhere. Suddenly, it’s up to Jack do what he can to fix this team and, at the same time, fix himself so he can be on the way back to redemption.
Throughout his life, Jack has experienced nothing but failure, having turned down a basketball scholarship to spite his father, ruining his marriage, and enduring the death of his son. As a result of his broken past, Jack is severely depressed and, instead of confronting his problems, has become heavily addicted to alcohol, But, when he gets a chance to coach again at his old school, something sparks hope within Jack. In many ways, Jack sees the team as a reflection of himself and recognizes that they need to put in a lot of work if they want to move forward. As Jack trains the team and leads them on their way to the playoffs, he repeats the message that little bits of effort add up and eventually make a big difference. Just like the team he hopes to inspire, Jack doesn’t give up and puts in the necessary effort to get clean, even seeking help and getting therapy. Interestingly, this journey also parallels Affleck’s own struggle with addiction. Before the movie was finished, Affleck, who has famously struggled over the years, relapsed and caused problems for the film’s production. Mirroring the character that he was playing onscreen, Affleck sought help, moved forward for his addiction and failures and set back on the road to redemption. no matter how many times it takes, they will try to move forward.
Overall, The Way Back was a heartwarming story of one man’s battle with addiction and his struggle on the way back to redemption. Able to draw from his own personal experiences with alcoholism, Ben Affleck does an amazing job in the role of Jack. What’s more, the film does an excellent job of recognizing the pain inherent to the road of recovery. For example, at one crucial in the film, Jack’s team wins an important game against a formidable opponent. Feeling like a conclusion, the film fades to black, allowing the audience to believe that everything works out well. However, as the film continues, the script takes a more realistic approach to the topic, highlighting the fact that recovery is never that easy. In doing so, The Way Back reminds the viewer that relapse and struggle are normal in these cases, revealing a perspective off addiction that many people don’t see. Alcoholism is not a challenge that offers a simple solution to beat it and be cured. Instead, the road to recovery is a constant battle that requires little steps of victory every day that, in the end, make big difference.
The Way Back fights its way into theatres on Friday, March 6th, 2020