The Way Back parents guide

The Way Back Parent Guide

An inspiring sports story that takes an unusually deep look at the challenges of overcoming alcoholism.

Overall B

Although he was a star on his own basketball team in high school, Jack Cunningham's life has gone downhill since. But when he is offered the chance to coach the team, which has similarly deteriorated, he sees an opportunity to turn things around.

Release date March 6, 2020

Violence B
Sexual Content B
Profanity D-
Substance Use D-

Why is The Way Back rated R? The MPAA rated The Way Back R for language throughout including some sexual references

Run Time: 108 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Jack Cunningham’s (Ben Affleck) glory days are behind him. A promising basketball player in his teens, the forty-something man is now a construction worker who puts in his time and then heads to the bar. Some of his family members (Janina Gavankar, Michaela Watkins) are worried about his frequent drinking, but the solitary Jack ignores their concerns. Then an offer to coach the struggling basketball team at his former high school gives Jack a way to go back to his forgotten dreams.

At first, Jack cares about the game more than he cares about the players. Amidst the basketball action, defeats and new game strategies, Jack gets to know the ragtag group of boys (some played by Brandon Wilson, Da’Vinchi, Melvin Gregg, Lukas Gage and Will Ropp), and begins to relate to their challenges. He soon realizes it will be a sobering job to turn them into a winning team. For the first time in a long time, he has a reason to put down the bottle.

The Way Back is not based on a true story. However, it is a familiar tale. If you, like me, are shaking your head at how easily alcoholism is cured in movies, you will be glad to learn that the screenplay digs deeper into both Jack’s drinking and the strong bonds of his addiction. The plot creates empathy for Jack’s situation while still showing consequences for his poor choices and implying there are no easy solutions for such complex problems.

With all this “inspirational” momentum going for it, the biggest unanswered question I have with this script is; “Why did its creators choose to include about 40 sexual expletives - which have pushed the movie into an R rating?” That content, plus other objectionable language, sexual innuendo, and depictions of drinking and driving, will have families calling foul on a film that could have shared its message with a much broader audience.

Directed by Gavin O'Connor. Starring Ben Affleck, Al Madrigal, and Michaela Watkins. Running time: 108 minutes. Theatrical release March 6, 2020. Updated

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The Way Back
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Way Back rated R? The Way Back is rated R by the MPAA for language throughout including some sexual references

Violence: An angry character causes some property damage. Basketball players yell and get into scuffles and fistfights on the court – the crowd also gets involved. A drunken character is involved in a car accident and flees the scene. A character threatens another with a baseball bat and police action. A fight results in a fall and a bloody injury. Characters battle life-threatening illnesses which cause concern, grief and anger for loved ones.
Sexual Content: Some sexual innuendo and crass phases are included in the script. A woman is accused of cheating on her marriage. A womanizing teen boy is shown kissing various girls. Cheerleaders are seen in scanty costumes and a young boy makes comments about their legs. A character is seen in the shower and urinating (with no explicit nudity).
Profanity: Approximately 95 instances of coarse language, including approximately 40 sexual expletives, some in a sexual context; frequent use of scatological slang, cursing, profanity, and vulgar expressions. Infrequent potty language used for name calling.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Alcohol use and abuse is frequently portrayed, often to the pint of drunkenness. A character lies about and attempts to hide his drinking. Characters drink while driving. Tobacco use is infrequently depicted. Drug use is mentioned.

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The Way Back Parents' Guide

The character Jack Cunningham has faced some disappointments and trials in his life that appear to be at the root of his drinking. What other characters have faced similar challenges? How did they respond? Why do you think hardships cause some people to turn to addictive substances, while others do not?

How can you help a person with addiction problem? What do you do if that person is you? What kind of help does Jack reject? What kind does he try? How does it help to be involved in a cause (like coaching basketball)? Why is that motivation not enough to keep him sober? What do you think it will it take to keep Jack from returning to his alcohol abuse?

Jack holds his team to a high standard of performance. Why does he have such a hard time holding himself to that standard? What consequences did he feel the boys needed to face? What consequences did he want to avoid facing himself? How does facing consequences for past mistakes influence future behavior?

One of the characters in the movie feels that it is irresponsible to count on basketball dreams when planning for the future. Why? What council would you give to someone with apparently exceptional abilities?

Home Video

Related home video titles:

Basketball takes center court in the movies Hoosiers, Glory Road and Coach Carter. Another character faces internal conflict in Collateral Beauty.

Alcoholism is explored in the films Judy and A Star is Born.