3 1/2 Stars
Gavin O’Connor’s directorial efforts resonate with me in the same manner that Sidney Lumet’s best work does. Both filmmakers have a keen eye for the details and rituals, habitual or minor, that complicate the average working-class citizen. There is an air of authenticity to their work, a knowing quality that suggests they may themselves be familiar with the type of people and places being fictionally portrayed onscreen. The Way Back is O’Connor’s eighth film and it features a mesmerizing performance from Ben Affleck, who is aided by a tricky screenplay from writer Brad Ingelsby.
The structure of the narrative and the decision to hide a major revelation until late in the second act is a bold choice. I prefer this approach (in this instance) because it doesn’t give Affleck’s character a clear reason for his self-destructive path. The movie star sheds his vanity and appears heavy, swollen, bearded. His real-life alcoholism must have informed his acting choices here. He’s never been more vulnerable and magnetic on-screen. The Way Back is a sports drama with a lot of heart.
Director: Gavin O’Connor
Stars: Ben Affleck, Al Madrigal, Michaela Watkins