During this joyous Easter season when we celebrate new life, the Life that gives hope to our broken world, a Hollywood film releases that shares this same message about hope and transformation that transcends our everyday glumness. The Miracle Season, directed by Sean McNamara, presents a sports comeback story like none other with a powerful message that surpasses the pulsating excitement of sport.
Based on a true story, the film follows the girls’ volleyball team from Iowa City West High School in Iowa and specifically the impact of one girl, Caroline “Line” Found, on the rest of the team and wider community. Caroline (Danika Yarosh) lives life with such gusto and vivacity that she emotionally supports her father while her mother is dying of cancer. Her infectious spirit pulses at the heart of this State championship-winning team of girls’ volleyball. Having nieces that play this sport on a highly competitive college level, I know it’s an intense, powerful, and unifying sport, one that shows the depth of women athletes and their ability to work together.
When tragedy strikes and the team becomes so devastated by the death of Line that they cannot play, it is left to Line’s best friend Kelley (Erin Moriarty) to draw strength from Line’s dad Ernie (William Hurt) and rely on his faith for the team. Not only does he face the loss of his daughter but aids his wife as she battles terminal cancer. She gathers her strength just enough to get out of her wheelchair and walk down the church aisle at the end of Caroline’s funeral thanking people for coming to pay their respects to her daughter. She dies only one week later. Ernie’s loss is unfathomable. Yet, through his faith in God he realizes that he needs to keep Caroline’s jovial spirit always present by supporting her friend Kelley and the team.
Ernie Found and William Hurt (LD Entertainment)
Kelley is determined to not let Caroline down and so rallies the team and steps into Line’s place as setter. Kathy “Coach Brez” Bresnahan (Helen Hunt), also broken by the loss, works with Kelley to encourage the girls to pick up the mantra of Ernie’s foundation to “Live Like Line”—never back down, never stop fighting, and never stop smiling.
As thy regain their unity and inner spirit, Coach Brez encourages them to take another shot at State by winning the last fifteen games of the season. Miraculously they come back with Ernie Found in the stands cheering them on wearing Live Like Line t-shirts and a picture of Caroline with them at every game, giving them the impetus to reach for their second State championship title without their star player. In a less-than-soupy moment, this story actually draws on the heart. It seems like it can be the same kind of sports comeback as Miracle or Invincible. Yet, what makes this film different is that it is about a strong women’s sports team, uncommon in film history.
As the real Kathy Bresnahan says, this film is about, “women finding their voice.” She finds that this particular story “transcends the sports crowd because it is a film of hope and perseverance.”
Helen Hunt as Coach Kathy Bresnahan (LD Entertainment)
Truly, it is one of hope that centers on a unique young woman who was always thinking of the other, not about herself. The real Ernie Found says of his daughter that she was, “a ball of fire not always going in the right direction, but she was present to people and loved to generate a smile from someone else. Her energy was boundless.” Many star sports players are smart and cocky, rather self-centered and arrogant. Not Line. She lived an aura of kindness and generosity in life and in volleyball. She loved with extravagance, so much so that it makes her a striking and exceptional heroine, one that young athletes can emulate. This is the hope of Sean McNamara, as in the legacy of his former films, Soul Surfer and Hoovey.
What makes this film so appealing is that the basis of the story is, as Ernie says, “the ultimate and personal tragedy.” It comes out of the grief of loss and interior pain. When one can go through such sorrow and turn it into a power for good, it then becomes the perfect resurrection story, an Easter story. I hope that many young women will watch this film and have the courage to live like Line.