Review: 'The Miracle Season' Starring Helen Hunt, Erin Moriarty, And William Hurt

Hope in the wake of loss. Small towns coming together for high school sports. Winning one for a fallen teammate. If these types of tropes resonate with you when well executed, then you might just like The Miracle Season, the new inspirational sports drama out this weekend, because it hits them all with sincerity and hope. Honestly maybe a little too much sincerity and hope for my taste. But I’m a jaded, bitter film critic, so who knows. Maybe my heart’s just not quite warm enough.

Based on a tragic true story, the film follows a girls’ volleyball team trying to persevere and win the season after the loss of one of their star players. Helen Hunt (as the team’s tough-love coach who struggles to keep them together) and William Hurt (playing the late girl’s grieving father) both give charismatic performances. They’re well cast, because with the material they were given, lesser actors could have easily slipped into Lifetime Original Movie-levels of simplistic sentimentality.

The town the characters occupy is united by high school sports in a way that only really happens in movies. There’s a Friday Night Lights quality to the town-wide love of girls’ volleyball that just didn’t land for me. I know this is based on a true story, but the townspeople and announcers were just a little too into this whole thing for me to fully accept it as a reality. It’s also PG, which didn’t help the matter either. Everyone is a model citizen on their best behavior all the time who obsess over high school girls’ volleyball. It’s a little bit much.

Setting aside its heartstring-tugging clich├ęs for a moment, I did ultimately enjoy the movie as a whole. Miracle Season is very well shot and edited. There’s a lot of great coverage of their games and training. It’s no Rocky, but the montages are pretty cool nonetheless. Honestly, my biggest problems lie with the script.

The ultimate point made in The Miracle Season is not to live a life of grief in tribute to someone you lost, but rather to live a full life inspired by how they lived theirs with the short time they had. The only problem is that in dramatizing this event, we spend very few moments with the girl before her untimely death. We mostly get to know her through her friends and family’s reminiscences after she’s gone, which seems to be the opposite of its moral. I just wish there was more time spent developing her as a character before she was gone. More showing and less telling. Perhaps then the message would have sunk in a little more.

Towards the end, the film does get repetitive. The games are cool to watch, but not over and over again. I imagine even legit volleyball fans would get tired by the fifth time we’re watching them toss the coin and serve the first ball.

If you like a good sports movie, and you’re fine with it being super sad and a little sappy, then The Miracle Season is right up your alley. For me the fast pacing of the game sequences and solid performances were enough to keep me onboard this emotional rollercoaster, even if it’s not one I’d typically want to ride.

Rating: 3 out of 5