The Way Back

The Way Back ★★★½

This is the kind of film that would have really rubbed me the wrong way a year or two ago, but one that I find immensely satisfying within my current stage of life. Between increasing stresses and burdens in different areas and changes in who I am as a person—a growing intolerance toward cynicism and an increasing appetite for genuine earnestness—I feel myself, odd as it may seem, more and more moved by simple stories don’t see a problem in valuing compassion and truth over more thematically complex storytelling. 

The Way Back falls perfectly into this category: its aspirations are noble, and if its faults are at times laughably obvious, the occasional clumsiness is endearing more than off-putting. Affleck’s personal draw to the material only serves to make it more compelling and elevated higher than the genre should allow; by the end, The Way Back feels less like a sports drama and more like a prayer of confession. The handheld photography sometimes merges on grating, but I love the empathy it‘s able to convey through the tight frame and lingering gaze. DP Eduard Grau hits on some surprisingly artful imagery here and there, as well: early in the film he often places Affleck within window frames or other natural borders, isolating and trapping him, and the mesh screen that separates him and the camera as he first stands outside the church looks like the partition of a confessional booth. 

This one isn’t a game changer, and it probably won’t be a favorite at the end of the year. But, for whatever reason, it struck a chord with me and hasn’t left my mind yet. I’m glad it exists.

2020 Ranked

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