While watching The Way Back, it's difficult to separate the artist from the art. Not everyone may know about Ben Affleck's increasingly-public struggles with alcoholism but upon the announcement of this movie, it was clear that Affleck wanted to express his struggle and journey in a cinematic way. The Way Back may not be a biopic, but through Affleck's powerfully restrained performance and Gavin O'Connor's soft nuance behind the camera, it is a superb film with a rare sense of authenticity.
The film works so well and stands out because of that authenticity. Rarely does anything ever feels like it goes too far or over-dramatic for the sake of 'hooking' you. It's also not a story about this happy-go-lucky guy who develops a drinking problem, transforming him into a terrible person who does bad things. Ben Affleck's Jack is just a normal dude with a rough past and a poor way of dealing with it. Those around him try to break through, but to no avail, leaving them often in the movie's peripheral. It would've been nice to get a bit more out of those side characters, but the movie does a good job of efficiently establishing them beyond surface-level people.
Director Gavin O'Connor and Ben Affleck continue to have great chemistry together, providing Affleck the right direction to lead this movie on-screen. They (along with writer Brad Ingelsby) provide a thoughtful, intimate character study mixed with a standard underdog sports movie.
The movie is now available for digital release after just a short run in cinemas before they were all forced to close. The review follows...