“The Miracle Season” is a positive and uplifting sports story of .. girl’s high school volleyball? Yeah, it is based on a true story of a small town high school and the volleyball champions who want nothing more than repeat and win the state top prize this year. But there is a tragic accident that causes the team to falter and lose their mojo for the game. But spurred on by the memory of the effervescent team captain who was has died, the team rebounds and goes all the way to “Just Win, Baby”.
In Iowa, in 2010, the West High School girls’ volleyball team became the Iowa state champions. It was a proud moment for Coach Kathy Bresnahan (Helen Hunt) and the team captain Caroline “Line” Found (Danika Yarosh). Line, as she is known, is bubbly and outgoing and she has a major positive attitude. Her friend and teammate Kelly (Erin Moriarty) does not know how Line can be so sure about the next year’s team and if they can get to the championship game. Line as other things to worry about, like a mother dying of cancer and her dad – Dr. Ernie Found (William Hurt) – who is preoccupied with his wife’s fragile condition.
But before the new season starts, Line is tragically killed in an accident. Dr. Found has lost his daughter, and soon after, also his wife. He is devastated. The volleyball team is emotionally ripped apart and unable to practice or compete. Kelly becomes the new team captain, but there is no enthusiasm. Coach Bresnahan is emotionally troubled, but she tries to get the girls to work through the pain and the grief. At first there is little cooperation. But Kelly becomes a key figure who can turn the spirit around and get into a 15-game win streak. She convinces her teammates that they all need to “Live Like Line”. That is, take a tragic life event and deal with it with passion and purpose.
And before the season ends, the West High School team is back in the driver’s seat. They have made the playoffs and they can contend for the state champion title once more. They struggled and worked through their pain, based on the affection they had for Line. But in the end, they needed to play for their own reasons; to become the best and the most effective team that they could be. But will that be enough for the scrappy little team from the small town high school? Can Coach Bresnahan break them out of the funk of losing a great friend and a really good player? Can the tough coach and the new team captain Kelly lead the way to a repeat victory?
Of course you know the answer, if you have seen any high school sports related movies in the past few decades. Take “Hoosiers” for a basketball story line. Or “Friday Night Lights” for a football based story line. Or possibly “Bring It On”, regarding cheerleading. But perhaps as a first, this is a movie about a girls high school volleyball team. I’m not sure that there are any others like that. So this is refreshing, and so is the fact that this movie works against a couple normal movie tropes. Such as: the ‘inspiring’ speech given by the coach. Here, the coach says – “Ok, we went to state last year, and here we are again. Thanks…”
Helen Hunt and William Hurt use their years of experience in making something more out the characters they have to play. Erin Moriarty likewise does a very good job as the player who need to find the leader within. Danika Yarosh has the most difficult job, seeing that her character is gone after the first 15 minutes or so, but she needs to make her portrayal very memorable. The story is very good, and it sometimes falls into the old stand-by sports movie tropes: the quick-cut training montage set to beat-heavy music, the changes between super slo-mo and regular speed during the games, for example. But one in while it finds something fresh: a scene where all the team, and the coach, stop the bus on the way to the Big Game – and they get out to make angels in the snow…
“The Miracle Season” is a well-made heart-tugger that tells the true story of overcoming the obstacles of grief by being your best. Yes, it plays many of the well-worn clichés about sports teams and life in a small town. But there is a real shining star in the memory of Caroline “Line” Found. She still urges you to “Live Like Line”.