thu 03/12/2020

Finding The Way Back review - alcoholism on the rebound | reviews, news & interviews

Finding The Way Back review - alcoholism on the rebound

Finding The Way Back review - alcoholism on the rebound

Ben Affleck delivers a great comeback performance as a recovering alcoholic

Ben Affleck stars as washed-up former basketball pro Jack

Gavin O’Connor has made a career out of sturdy films that make grown men cry. His best was Warrior - a hulking, tear-jerking tale of male fragility and addiction. His latest Finding The Way Back is a potent, raw drama that explores similar terrain and reunites him with Ben Affleck (they last worked together on The Accountant).

Gavin O’Connor has made a career out of sturdy films that make grown men cry. His best was Warrior - a hulking, tear-jerking tale of male fragility and addiction. His latest Finding The Way Back is a potent, raw drama that explores similar terrain and reunites him with Ben Affleck (they last worked together on The Accountant).

This film was initially called The Has-Been. Like a stage-actor hearing the word "Macbeth", the average Hollywood actor might recoil at such a title. Which is a shame, as it encapsulates the sense of loss experienced by the central character (and what might have become of Affleck too) much better than the self-help title it was finally given.

Affleck (pictured below) has never become a has-been. Despite accusations of sexual misconduct, and a recent slew of bad pictures (Batman v Superman being top-billing), he’s remained on our screens. What makes Affleck so effective in this film is his personal battle with alcohol addiction –  one that cost him his marriage, and nearly his career. Yet, like Stanislavsky on steroids, he expertly channels the experience into his performance. Ben Affleck as a recovering alcoholic in Finding the Way BackOn the face of it, this masculine melodrama looks like a sports film. It’s not –  Finding The Way Back is squarely about addiction and loss. Jack (Affleck) is a washed-up former basketball pro who swigs beer in the shower following shifts as a construction worker, drinking away any thoughts of his estranged wife Angela (Janina Gavankar), before hitting the local watering hole. Then his old high school priest contacts him, asking him to coach an abysmal team full of wayward teens who have about as much skill with a ball as they do a sense of purpose. A dose of discipline is order, for both the coach and the team. 

O’Connor’s films are always male-centric and the couple of female characters in the film are written as thin as Bible pages. But he gets male fragility, and explores it like few others. The direction is solid enough, the editing distracting, and Rob Simonsen’s score is over-boiled, but the emotion of the drama smooths over it all.

Finding The Way Back feels like a throwback, but a compelling one, charged by an all-too-real performance from Affleck who elicits not just sympathy but empathy for what he and his character have gone through. Addicts screw up, they fall down, but redemption is about always getting up and trying again.

@JosephDAWalsh 

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