In an era in which Hollywood is loaded with vice and smut, the new film “The Miracle Season,” in theaters tomorrow, will give Americans hope that there’s a future for movies with positive and inspirational messages.
The story is based on the 2011 Iowa City West High girls’ volleyball team, which won back-to-back state championships even though its best player, setter and senior captain Caroline “Line” Found (played by Danika Yarosh), was killed in a moped accident just before the regular season began.
About a week after that fatal accident, the girl’s mother, Ellyn Found (played by Jillian Fargey), died of pancreatic cancer.
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With its season set to begin, the volleyball team had little motivation to be anywhere near a court. It was far too upsetting for them, understandably so. After all, Found had a glowing personality and was set to captain the squad and lead the offense before her accident.
This adversity gave the girls added motivation: Give up or play through the pain to honor their fallen teammate.
Initially, the team was hardly able to move at practice and lacked confidence — and it showed in their performance. As the season progressed, however, they worked hard to play in Found’s honor. Her best friend, Kelly (played by Erin Moriarty,) emerged as a new team leader as she filled the void as setter and helped the team rally to success as time went on.
In the championship game, the girls faced another setback in a contest against Iowa City High, a team that beat them decisively earlier in the season. Even so, Iowa City West managed to play with joy for the first time all year — and in the end, it worked out for them …
While “The Miracle Season” is not overtly Christian, it shows the power faith can have to give people strength when they need it most. Initially, after his daughter and wife died, Ernie Found (played by William Hurt), said, “God hasn’t exactly shown up for me lately.” As time progresses, though, he was able to make peace with God despite the tragedies he and the community suffered.
There are already plenty of inspirational sports movies out there, but “The Miracle Season” still manages to stand out. Football has “Rudy” and “Friday Night Lights,” hockey has “Miracle,” basketball has “Hoosiers,” but there have hardly been any volleyball movies produced — let alone serious ones.
“The Miracle Season” certainly fills the void, and it’s important that such a film was made. According to the National Federation of School Associations, volleyball has the second-highest participation rate among girls’ high school sports in the United States (432,176 participants in the 2014-2015 season), behind outdoor track. It is about time Hollywood gave the sport some recognition, especially with a story that highlights the hard work and strength of a tightly knit community in the middle of the country — a region the film industry almost always ignores.
Even for those who are not into volleyball, “The Miracle Season” is a film well worth watching. Its overall message is apolitical and uplifting, a rarity in Hollywood and pop culture these days.
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The film, directed by Sean McNamara and also starring Helen Hunt, hits theaters on April 6. Find out more.
Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, ESPN, and other outlets.