Finding The Way Back

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Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Finding The Way Back
"If you mourn the days when montage was king or have wondered why magic hour lens flare shots seemed to fall out of vogue, then you can fill your boots with Finding The Way Back" | Photo: © 2020 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

If you mourn the days when montage was king or have wondered why magic hour lens flare shots seemed to fall out of vogue, then you can fill your boots with Finding The Way Back as director Gavin O'Connor and his cinematographer Eduard Grau use old-fashioned techniques to take on the old-fashioned formula of an alcoholic coach (male, of course) falling and rising in this serviceable bounce around the basketball court.

Ben Affleck has long-since proved he's not just a pretty face, with the likes of Argo, Gone Girl and Hollywoodland and he reinforces that here, as he sinks into the slightly out-of-shape, bearded and puffy-faced Jack Cunningham - a one-time school basketball star who has now hit the bottle so hard he drinks vodka from a coffee cup at his building site job and cradles cans of beer in the shower. The lived-in look suits Affleck, somehow allowing him - and us - to focus more on his performance than his jawline. The star, of course, has had his own well-publicised battle with the bottle, which can't have hurt when it comes to giving Jack a volatile believability at just the right moments.

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O'Connor and writer Brad Inglesby set things up nicely, as Jack finds himself offered a job coaching at his old school. Despite initial reluctance, he's soon working on tactics with the team, who also start to develop their own stories as we watch them begin to hustle on the court as Jack swears from the sidelines. If only they had stuck to the formula, as the play-offs begin to loom on the horizon, this could have had the sort of feel-good sweep that proves addictive in itself.

Instead, Inglesby decides to take far too much time-out to outline the personal tragedy in Jack's life that led to all this - a stodgy and sentimental section that lacks the balance of the boisterousness of the boys on the basketball court that has gone before. No doubt the writer thought he was giving us something more by focusing on the more serious elements of the drama, but he spends so long in Jack's little world that the return to the game feels too cursory and rushed, the pre-amble given more weight in the edit than the pay-off. Proceedings are also weighed down by a syrupy and obvious piano score from Rob Simenson that leans too hard into the sentimental sections, so that by the end it feels as though we're being instructed rather than shown how to feel.

Reviewed on: 12 Jul 2020
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Jack Cunningham was an HS basketball phenom who walked away from the game, forfeiting his future. Years later, when he reluctantly accepts a coaching job at his alma mater, he may get one last shot at redemption.

Director: Gavin O'Connor

Writer: Brad Ingelsby

Starring: Ben Affleck, Al Madrigal, Janina Gavankar, Michaela Watkins, Brandon Wilson, Will Ropp

Year: 2020

Runtime: 108 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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