By Tracy Wang
Based on the true story of Caroline Found, a volleyball star captain at Iowa City West High School, whose sudden death left her team broken both physically and emotionally, ‘The Miracle Season’ pays tribute to Found and her team by creating a film that is centered around a group of strong young women, and how they eventually stand up, and begin to ‘Live Like Line’.
Line (Danika Yarosh) and Kelley (Erin Moriarty) have been best friends since forever, and they do almost everything together. An angel in Kelley’s eyes, Line manages to make everything into an adventure, and brings laughter to everyone in town. Both playing in the volleyball team of West High School, Line is the glue of the team, and is more than ready to lead the team to win the state championship for a second straight season. However, after a party to celebrate their team, Line died in a moped accident.
The sudden loss of both his wife and his daughter crushes Line’s father (William Hurt), as well as the whole team. Without Line, they lose the passion for volleyball, and cannot face playing the sport that brought them together. Kelley, once a rather insignificant player, is forced to take her best friend’s position, and bring the team back together. As the game days draw ever closer, will they be able to win another state championship? How will they deal with their loss of Line?
‘The Miracle Season’ can be said to be a total tearjerker; not far into the movie, we see two police officers ringing Line’s father’s doorbell, and delivering the news of her moped accident. Starting from that point, we are constantly fighting back our tears, as we witness one after another plot points where the team, even the whole town, is submerged in sadness and despair.
Hurt’s performance as Line’s father is phenomenal in that he is not the character who occupies the screen, but his presence and his emotion are the ones that affect us the most. Weak at his knees after seeing a girl player rushing down the stairs, listening to the game in his truck, and falling into the arms of the policemen, his performance throughout the film carries warmth, vulnerability and a sense of resignation. Yarosh, playing his vibrant daughter, captures the easygoing and joyful spirit of Line, and makes us fall in love with such a funny and beautiful girl instantly.
Pulsing with some wonderful performances and the strong emotions the true story elicits, ‘The Miracle Season’ has a good base, but the lack of character development lets the whole film down a bit. With a straightforward plot, the film has a lot of room for developing character relationships as well as individual characters. However, other than Kelley, we hardly know the rest of the team members. We remember a few of their faces, but the lack of other team members’ stories make the team remain broken, even after they start to win for line.
The romantic relationship between Kelley and her neighbor that starts with Line boldly asking him and his sister to their game stays relatively the same, even dwindling at times, since most of the time, we only see him at a game. With the title of the film, we know their volleyball team is going to rise and likely win another state championship; however, the fast pace of the game schedule, paired with a lack of plot points within this section of the film, makes us want more materials in believing why and how they won.
An inspirational film in and of itself, ‘The Miracle Season’ finally sends out its most significant message to us, when Line’s father asks the team not to ‘win for Line, but to live like Line’. These players have been carrying the weight of winning for Line, but what they really need to do is to live, to play, to work and to embrace life like Line, and to live boldly, even in the face of tragedy.