July 11, 2020
Ben Affleck’s Finding the Way Back is the latest in US cinema’s rich tradition of basketball films, from Hoop Dreams to He Got Game
Streaming: great basketball films to watch after The Last Dance
Having skidded far off the rails, a former star basketball player finds renewed purpose in life by coaching a team of bright-eyed young talents: some films start with a script, but Finding the Way Back practically starts with a template. That’s not a criticism of Gavin O’Connor’s satisfying meat-and-potatoes sports drama, which was supposed to come out in UK cinemas in late March, and instead was digitally released last Friday. Finding the Way Back uses the familiarity of its premise to highlight ways in which sporting triumph and personal pride don’t always line up.
As an alcoholic Los Angeles construction worker somehow tasked with coaching his former high school’s ailing basketball team, Ben Affleck introduces a note of wounded anxiety to proceedings that is never shed, even as the plot climbs its inevitable upward arc. Rescued from the purgatory of crummy Batman spinoffs, the embattled Actor has clearly taken the film as his own metatextual comeback story, and sure enough, he’s the best he’s ever been in it. O’Connor knows his way around a worn, grainy study of everyday athletes – he previously made the excellent (and Netflixable) Warrior (2011) with Tom Hardy – and he brings similar integrity to this one.
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