Directed by: Sean McNamara
Written by: David Aaron Cohen, Elissa Matsueda
Cast: Erin Moriarty, Helen Hunt, Tiera Skovbye, William Hurt, Danika Yarosh
As someone who is not a major fan of sports films, this movie was an unexpected surprise. The Miracle Season opens in 2011. Caroline Found picks up her friend Kelly. It is immediately clear that Caroline is the town sweetheart. This is shown through her interacting with locals and even forcing her friend Kelly to join her in pulling off the road and talking to a new neighbor.
In the first few moments, the girls play their first match. They go by “The Women of Troy” because the West Iowa City High’s mascot is the Trojans. During the first match it is clear Kelly is not the best player even being subbed out by a freshman. Caroline hosts a post game party in her barn where most teens can be seen enjoying themselves, and her father is present trying to make the stereo work. Caroline then drives her car into the barn with her radio at full volume to get the party going. This scene brought a smile to my face.
It is made very clear from the beginning that each character has some major life issues occurring outside of volleyball, but despite this they put their best foot forward. As the party ends, Caroline reveals to Kelly she has a moped and intends to drive to visit her mother. Before driving off, Caroline says to Kelly that they will be State Champions again like last year, that “this is their year.” The film then cuts to one of the most tear-jerking montages I’ve seen in awhile. Each part showcases a character getting a call that Caroline has been involved in a fatal accident.
I feared this movie would go from a drama about dealing with loss and grief to an overzealous sports film. Luckily my fears did not come to fruition. The Miracle Season carries on with a well balanced and well paced story of overcoming survivor’s guilt, loss of a loved one, and how schools and parents cope in situations like this. This all occurs while the strong female cast shows growth and teamwork, which seems to be lacking in the current 2018 film line up.
I worried the film would be throwing out jargon about volleyball I could not follow, but this really is a non-fiction drama based around a sports team.
The film is really carried by Kathy Bresnahan who is the coach of the team and played by Helen Hunt. Many of her scenes require her to showcase the personality of a coach, mentor, and grieving member of the community all at once. The other star is Erin Moriarty who plays Kelly. The Miracle Season follows her and how she grows as a person and a volleyball player. Moriarty is a really great actress and really makes you root for her character to win. There are so many scenes that I don’t want to give away that her acting alone makes memorable.
To round out the principal cast we have William Hurt as Dr. Ernie Found and Danika Yarosh as Caroline Found. William Hurt is perfect in his role, and most of his scenes require him to give the audience emotions without lines, which is hard but he seals the deal every time. Danika Yarosh succeeded in her role, because I laughed when she was making jokes with the team and cried when the team lost her. The supporting cast did an amazing job as well. Normally, you can spot a weak character or someone who wasn’t necessary to the film, but this cast felt like they were all meant to be there and were fully dedicated to their roles.
Overall, The Miracle Season has so much heart, I left the theater unsure if I would be crying, smiling, or both at the same time. The fact that it was a real story seemed to really hit home for most of the audience as well. You could hear whispering cheering during the volleyball matches and sniffles during the scenes of grief. While this movie isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I think it accomplished exactly what it set out to do. Showing women empowerment, how to handle grief, and how teens navigate life on a sports team. I left this screening telling my friends they had to go to see this, and I’d say the same to those of you reading this.