Hot Take: It’s a miracle if you make it out of this one with dry eyes, even if you don’t care for it’s saccharine-sweet dramatization of the amazing story of the West High School volleyball team in the aftermath of the death of one of their teammates.
The basis for The Miracle Season would have been more interesting as a topic for ESPN’s “30 for 30” which lives for stories such as these. Instead, director Sean McNamara wanted to bring it to the big screen and squeeze out every tear you never knew you had in re-telling the story of the West High School volleyball team after the death of teammate Caroline Found during the follow-up to their championship season in 2011. Crushed by the loss, the team no longer wants to play but Coach Bres initially forces and then pushes them back on the court and eventually, the team rebounds and begins an unexpected run toward an improbable second consecutive state championship. It’s every sports movie you’ve ever seen with the rare exception that this one is fact-based as the events depicted happened and “Live Like Line” became the team’s call as they moved from sadness to rejoicing in honoring their fallen teammate throughout the 2012 season depicted in the film. It’s an inspirational story, if you can see through the manipulative efforts taken by McNamara to insure the audience is left in a puddle of tears as they watch the season unfold on screen.
Aided by two acting heavyweights (Helen Hunt portrays the stoic and emotionless Coach Bres and William Hurt portrays Caroline Found’s father who also loses his wife the same week he loses his daughter), the young cast features Danika Yanosh as Caroline Found and Erin Moriarty as Kelley Fliehler, Found’s teammate and best friend. Yanosh would be best known for her TV work and her biggest role as Malina Bennett in Heroes Reborn, the failed attempt to re-boot the polarizing Heroes television show. Moriarty was lauded for her role in Captain Fantastic in 2016 and is slowly building a competent resume. The cast itself is rather unimportant as the film spends less time on character development and more time on making every effort to “cinematize” every moment whether it be through lighting, flashback or a pop-heavy musical soundtrack inexplicably peppered with Katy Perry hits throughout the film (but not on the official soundtrack itself).
Hunt and Hurt aren’t immune to the lack of character development, either. Neither deliver what would be considered memorable performances and almost appear as if they thought they were filming a Lifetime movie instead of a film destined for the cinema. The story itself is one worth being told but the film offers nothing you can’t get from HBO’s Real Sports “Live Like Line: The Story of Caroline Found” story. The documentary short from HBO is as emotional as the film and it only takes 15 minutes to get there. It’s also hard to understand the choices McNamara, Hunt and Hurt make in their portrayal of the two adults in the film as they appear to be dissimilar to their real-life counterparts.
Sports films are definitely a genre and the genre is littered with these types of stories. The Miracle Season, while competent and successful in its emotional gymnastics, will not be more than one of those stories. If you’re looking for a good cry, though, The Miracle Season is the perfect film to wash out your tear ducts.
You once stood on a nail for an hour and didn’t so much as let out a sound.