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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Miracle Season is an inspiring, fact-based sports drama about a high school volleyball team left reeling by their captain's unexpected death in an accident. Her death isn't shown -- nor is that of her beloved mother from cancer shortly thereafter -- but the impact these two losses have on the movie's other characters could be upsetting for younger/sensitive viewers. But other than that and a little bit of chaste kissing between teens, the movie is squeaky clean: There's no strong language, no fights, and no drinking or drugs. And it's full of positive role models and worthy messages about perseverance, teamwork, and finding positive ways to remember and honor those you've lost. Erin Moriarty, William Hurt, and Helen Hunt co-star.
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What's the story?
Caroline "Line" Found (Danika Yarosh) is the beloved captain of the Iowa state champion West High girls' volleyball squad. When she dies in an accident, it devastates the community -- especially her best friend, Kelly (Erin Moriarty); her father, Ernie (William Hurt); and her teammates. Coach Kathy Bresnahan (Helen Hunt) is left to pick up the pieces and try to refocus the girls, who understandably can't find their winning groove after the tragedy. Can Kelly and Coach Bresnahan put together a winning season in honor of their fallen loved one -- and for Line's mother, who died of cancer soon after her daughter's passing? THE MIRACLE SEASON is based on the true story of the 2011 West High volleyball team.
Is it any good?
This movie is a fairly effective, if over-polite, tearjerker, with good sports sequences. The Miracle Season feels a bit too sanitized; even when terrible tragedy strikes, the characters keep their language clean. No one drowns their sorrows, and no one even really gets into an argument. Portraying grief realistically is an extremely difficult line for any film to toe, and The Miracle Season definitely errs on the side of caution. (Interestingly, the filmmakers chose to make the circumstances of Line's death less clean than they actually were; in real life, she was on her way home from a church event, while here, it's a teen party, which unintentionally raises uncomfortable questions that were quickly dispelled in reality -- drugs and alcohol were not factors in her crash.) That ends up making the drama feel a bit limited, preventing viewers from experiencing the full depth of the characters' feelings. Which is a shame, because Hunt and Hurt are both Oscar winners. The former is fine as the emotionally shielded coach; she's believable, but we get little insight into who she is. Hurt, meanwhile, has a couple of affecting scenes as the grieving father and widower. In the lead role, Moriarty ably holds the screen with those two veterans and sympathetically portrays a girl coping with a dreadful loss while becoming what her team needs her to be. And in her brief appearance as Line, Yarosh infuses her scenes with quirky energy and warmth.
Without much in the way of suspense (the title rather gives away the game; we can be fairly sure they're going to compete for the title again, or else it might have been called They Were Unable to Overcome a Tragedy) -- or the emotional danger of exploring the depth of the grieving -- the film still manages to move due to moments like Hurt's scenes. And the volleyball sequences are well captured and exciting because, let's face it, volleyball is awesome. Miracle Season is suitable for most ages and delivers a message of perseverance and honoring lost loved ones.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the messages of The Miracle Season. How did the characters show good teamwork? Why is teamwork important? What's hard for you when you work with a team, and what's easy?
Why might filmmakers choose to alter the facts in movies that are based on real-life events? What changes do you suspect were made here? Is that OK with you? What's the value of telling this story as a drama (as opposed to, say, a documentary or news report)?
Which characters do you consider role models? Why?
What's the appeal of movies about sports teams? Can you think of others you've seen? What do they tend to have in common?
How do the characters handle their grief? Have you ever had to deal with a loss like that? How did it turn out?
- In theaters: April 6, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: July 31, 2018
- Cast: Helen Hunt, William Hurt, Erin Moriarty
- Director: Sean McNamara
- Studio: Mirror
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Character Strengths: Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some thematic elements
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