The Way Back

The Way Back ★★★★

So there was The Way, 2010’s The Way Back, The Way Way Back, and now we’re at The Way Back again. What’s next for this wacky franchise that began with two films about lots of walking, before a coming of age detour, and now a basketball movie? And why did they recast Martin Sheen’s character from the first one?

Clearly I don’t have much to say about this movie, even though it’s quite good. A standard story told very well. You can set your wristwatch to its narrative beats, but I think it’s a good sign that they still hit hard. Plus, the film smartly doesn’t lay it on too thick. When Affleck’s team wins a big game, everyone erupts, but most of the sound is sucked out of the film, and as the team and the fans go nuts, Affleck just half-collapses in his chair and exhales. He can finally breathe. Or towards the end, when you’d expect the clichéd sports movie moment, Affleck is instead on his own, bordered by the sea, shooting a basketball into a hoop. These subdued moments encapsulate his character well, a guy who’s just trying to get back to normalcy, to find out if he can really feel again. For him and the kids he coaches, it’s not really a film about winning the big one, but instead about knowing that you (still) have the capacity to do so.

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