Affleck’s new movie resonates with his off-screen life

By Mayra Pereyra

  The “Way Back” is a movie  about a former high school basketball sensation, struggling with alcoholism, who’s offered a coaching job at his alma mater.

   As the team starts to win, he becomes motivated to overcome his addiction.

Affleck plays an alcoholic and can relate to his character since he has been dealing with addiction for quite some time. 

  Affleck has said he has dealt with depression throughout his life due to childhood traumas-, which included a long family history of alcohol abuse. 

Jack Cunningham, the lead role played by Affleck, an addict who received a full scholarship to the University of Kansans to play basketball but lets that opportunity go and lets himself drift away from his  responsibilities.

He gets a chance to reconnect with his love for the game.  

He is offered a job at his alma mater to coach the basketball team, which is not doing so well, but he accepts in hopes of keeping himself off alcohol.   

Cunningham realizes that he has made many bad decisions and has spent much of his time hurting himself. 

This character resonated with Affleck,especially after finally admitting he was battling his real-life addiction. 

He posted on twitter back in October 2019, “battling addiction is a life long and difficult struggle. 

It is a full-time commitment, and I am fighting for my family and myself.” 

   Affleck  admits that while filming, he found himself reconnecting with acting through the cast and finds himself loving it again. 

 The storyline feels familiar, similar to the movies “Coach Carter” starring  Samuel L. Jackson  and “Finding Forrester” starring Sean Connery. 

Jackson plays a coach who returns to his old high school to get the basketball team  into shape and set the players on a winning-streak and Connery plays a literature teacher who helps a student  confront his past.

This seems somewhat of a similar plot, but the movie “The Way Back” isn’t just about the basketball team and helping them win. 

 The movie “The Way Back” is not based on a true story but the director did select an actor that can relate to the character in some ways. 

The movie begins with  Cunningham, working as an ironworker. 

After his shift, he walks to his truck, where he pops open a can of beer, starts up his Chevy Blazer and drives off. 

He gets to his house, opens his refrigerator, pops open another beer and lays on his couch to watch a basketball game. 

The director, from the beginning, makes it clear that Cunningham  has a drinking problem.

 He lives alone, visits a bar after work almost every night and drinks until he can’t stand anymore, but Jack isn’t the one limiting his consumption of alcohol. 

A friend at the bar, an older black man, helps him. This man turns out to be his father’s friend.

While walking Cunningham up the stairs, this friend talks  about Cunningham’s dad and how at least he doesn’t have to carry him into the house as he did with his dad.    

That week Cunningham receives a call from a priest, Father Divine, who is the head of the high school Jack attended in the 1990s. 

Father Divine calls him over to Bishop High School to see if he would be interested in possibly coaching the varsity basketball team.

Cunningham looks around the rectory and sees a jersey with his last name and a trophy that says CIF Championship 1993 and 1994. 

Cunningham was Bishop’s high school star basketball player.

Jack decides to take Father Divine up on his offer and coaches the team, and at first, they lose a few games, but Jack finds there strengths and gives them direction to better the team. 

They began winning, and this becomes a distraction for Jack. It seemed that he had gained control of his drinking, then the story takes a turn. 

He gets a call from his ex-wife, Angela, but she sounds worried.  

He rushes to a pediatric cancer hospital where he meets Angela.

They both witness a doctor informing their friends that their son has cancer. 

Cunningham can’t bear to see how devastated his friends are and practically runs out of the hospital and straight back to the bar.

The movie looks like somewhat of a low budget production, but the story is captivating.

It seems as it is going to be a typical “Coach Carter” type of movie where the team struggles but wins a championship, but the basketball team isn’t the main focus of the movie.

This movie is about Cunningham, who could have had it all but threw it away. 

He grew up with an alcoholic father who didn’t take an interest in his son until he realized he was great at something, basketball.

Cunningham decided to his opportunity away to hurt his father for being abusive, not knowing he would be hurting himself as well.  

Like in “Finding Forrester”, Cunningham is slowly forcing himself to overcome his past with the help of his ex-wife and this high school team. 

He is angry because his son was taken from him.

His father did not seem to care, and toward the end, he admits he was not a good husband . 

He speaks about how high school was the last time he picked up a basketball. 

The director ends the movie with Cunningham admitting himself into rehab.

He is seen walking into a storage room to look for a basketball, he finds one, and is last seen bouncing the basketball and shooting a few baskets. 

Not that he’s starting over, but that he’s finally healing.  

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