Director – Gavin O’Connor
Distribution – Ben Affleck, Al Madrigal, Michaela Watkins, Janine Havankar

They say that the great Michael Jordan will be here to train before anyone else and that he will be here longer than they are. It was a sign of greatness. It’s an anecdote I immediately remembered when I saw a scene in The Way Back in which a high school basketball player is five minutes late for practice and is immediately expelled from the team by coach Jack Cunningham.

Jack played Ben Affleck and was a star player in his youth, but later in life he allowed alcohol and grief. When we first met him, he was working on a construction site. After the basketball coach had to quit his old school due to illness, Jack is called upon to lead a poorly disciplined team that fights better equipped and more talented players.

Look at the trailer at the back.

It would be interesting to see someone who hasn’t seen Ben Affleck’s film since his Heidi saw The Way Back in the 2000s. Nowadays, the disposable idol is almost unrecognizable and exchanges that cheeky smile for a certain gloominess. In The Way Back Affleck you don’t walk around with your signature stall, but with your hands full of pockets and a disproportionate body.

He brings to Jack an acquaintance who can only come from someone who has only lived part of such a life – it’s an instinctive performance Affleck did in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, in which he portrayed a completely different side of himself. Little things like tapping beer cans before Jack opens them, replacing every can he takes out of the freezer with a new one, and taking it to the fridge anywhere in the house make Jack’s cycle of self-hatred even more plausible.

The way back seems to be a formula, but in reality it is not. It was as if writer Brad Inglesby had written a script that had touched all the familiar elements, and director Gavin O’Connor had come on stage and systematically changed a few key points. There’s nothing more amazing than a 30-minute postscript that ends a movie. That alone changes its nature. If the film follows the intended path and goes from one character to another, both in the sports drama and in the exploration of the characters, it doesn’t become a clickable example of both.

The film doesn’t pretend to be a story of losers, and it doesn’t pretend that leading a successful team will save Jack’s life. It’s just a portrait of these characters at a very precise moment in their lives; they will have other stories to tell.

On this picture the Warner Bros. picture shows Charles Lott Jr. (left), Ben Affleck and Al Madrigal in a scene from The Way Back.

Like the missing girl, Affleck’s character in The Way Back is sometimes terrifyingly semi-autobiographical – the actor talks about his period of rehabilitation from alcoholism, but the film lacks a sectarian side, as in Honey Boy Shia LaBeuf or Rachel marries Jonathan Demm.

It may seem like an independent American painting – the cameraman’s work is boring and the images are pictorial – but it is ultimately the result of a long relationship between Affleck and Warner Brothers. In happy times, he would have made the film The Way Back himself and maybe got a big hug, the story of his return, which would have become a fairy tale about the Oscar. But at the moment neither seems unlikely.