Despite a tragic beginning, “The Miracle Season” is a feel-good movie based on the real-life tale of the 2011 high school girls volleyball team from West High School in Iowa City. Fresh off a state championship in 2010, best friends Kelley Fliehler (Erin Moriarty) and Caroline “Line” Found (Danika Yarosh) are excited to lead the team to another banner year.
Line is clearly the ringleader and instigator of the two, while Kelly happily tags along with a friend who regularly pushes her out of her comfort zone to ensure she gets the most out of life. Caroline’s loving and supportive father Ernie (William Hurt), and the driven and stoic volleyball coach Kathy “Brez” Bresnahan (Helen Hunt) round out the wholesome cast.
When Line dies tragically and suddenly in a traffic accident, the collective heart of the community suffers. Everyone who knew her is deeply affected by the loss of this charismatic, larger-than-life character. Coach Brez, Ernie, Kelley and the rest of her teammates all channel their grief differently. Coach Brez focuses on getting the team back in action, but pushes too hard too fast, and the girls all revolt. When Line’s death is immediately followed by that of her mother, Ernie is left questioning his faith. Kelley drifts without the anchor of her long-time-friend.
Following this period of darkness Brez identifies the possibility of a record-breaking comeback season. After forfeiting the opening games of the season, Coach Brez and Kelley (now in the critical role of setter previously filled by Line) rally the team to go on a record-breaking winning streak to get them back to the state finals.
During that journey, the team’s attitude transforms from a mentality of “Do it for Line” (with a subtle sense of guilt and obligation) to the embodied philosophy of “Live like Line” (with a feeling of greater lightness and freedom).
While the movie is admittedly formulaic (including overused Katy Perry anthems and fancy camera work around the volleyball court), it’s a formula that clearly works and director Sean McNamara executes the details beautifully.
I found “The Miracle Season” truly inspiring in that it focuses almost exclusively on the positive relationships between the teammates. With the exception of one gossipy moment where a few teammates question Kelley’s ability to lead the team to victory, the young women don’t exhibit any of the usual “us versus them” mentality that can exist in the high school genre.
I also really appreciated how the men were portrayed in the movie. Ernie, his friend, and the assistant coach were all kind, loving, supportive and strong men. I can’t remember the last time I saw a man genuinely comfort another who was suffering, on screen or in real life, and it was really powerful to see.
Ultimately, “The Miracle Season” is full of positive role models who manage to take heartbreak and use it as a catalyst for their own growth and development, something to which we can all aspire.
Amy Kellestine is an educator, engineer, Arati life coach and entrepreneur living in Edmonton, Alberta. She spends her free time camping, gardening, and volunteering for causes such as Cystic Fibrosis and nature conservation. She is a devoted mother and is passionate about helping others and writing.