Caroline is an energetic, optimistic and outgoing teenager who lights up every room and – as her best friend Kelley says – turns “absolutely anything into an adventure.”
She’s also captain of the West High School volleyball team, which won the hearts of the townspeople last season by winning the Iowa state championship. They’re one of the favorites this year, too.
Then tragedy strikes.
Just days into the season Caroline is killed in an accident, devastating not only her team and classmates but also the city that had been inspired by her bubbly personality. Some 4,000 people attend her funeral.
How long will it take for this community to recover from such a devastating event?
The Miracle Season (PG) opens this weekend, recounting the true story about an Iowa high school team that recovered from the death of a star player – Caroline “Line” Found – to compete for another state title. Instead of winning one “for Line,” they drew inspiration from her optimism to “live like Line.”
It stars Helen Hunt (Twister, Mad About You) as Coach Kathy Bresnahan, Danika Yarosh (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back) as Caroline “Line” Found, Erin Moriarty (Jessica Jones) as Caroline’s friend Kelley, and William Hurt (Captain America: Civil War) as Caroline’s father, Ernie.
The Miracle Season surprised me. Consider: How many successful films have been made about high school volleyball? But it has a solid storyline and a nice message, and even a few biblical lessons, too.
It also fills a void at the box office: films spotlighting female sports. Most movies in this category (A League of Their Own, Million Dollar Baby) involve sports that females on the high school and college level don’t play.
Let’s examine the details.
Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!
Minimal. Police deliver the news of Caroline’s death – she died in a moped crash – to her father. (We don’t see the crash.) We also learn of another person’s death. We see Caroline’s funeral.
Minimal. We hear a joke about a married man “getting lucky” with his wife. A husband and wife kiss. We hear discussion of two teens kissing. Later, we see teens kissing twice.
None/minimal. OMG 4, butt 2, suck 2, pi—ed 1.
Other Positive Elements
Caroline’s father develops a father-daughter type relationship with Kelley, who replaces Caroline as captain. It’s touching to watch.
Some of Caroline’s opponents from other teams attend her funeral.
Perhaps to some moviegoers, The Miracle Season will seem hokey or trite: a community comes together by rallying around a volleyball team. But such an opinion overlooks the significance that sports can play in teaching us to overcoming adversity and tragedy. In fact, sports can teach us multiple lessons about life.
The primary lesson from the film, though, isn’t about adversity. It’s about living life with joy. In the real world, Caroline Found was a Christian whose faith gave her the hope to shine for Jesus. She was involved in Young Life. People wanted to be around her. At the movie’s end, West High fans sported “Live Like Line” t-shirts – a reference to her contagious view of life.
Few of us ever will face the tragedy that Ernie Found faced, and the movie shows him struggling with doubt. “God hasn’t exactly showed up for me lately,” he says at one point. But by movie’s end – thanks in part to assistance from a Christian friend – Found draws strength from his faith: “I know how blessed I am.”
Scripture tells us that Jesus can “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15). The Gospels even depict Jesus as grieving and weeping (John 11:35).
We don’t know why Caroline Found was killed, but we can see the good that came out of that tragedy (Rom. 8:28). Such verses may not bring instant healing, but over time, they can help give us a glimpse of God’s tapestry.
Few of us know the intricacies of volleyball strategy, but the film does a nice job explaining what we’re watching on-screen. The volleyball action is believable, too. Finally, the father-daughter type relationship between Ernie Found and Kelley brought tears to my eyes.
What Doesn’t Work
Although the volleyball action is believable, the crowd shots – and the PA announcer – are not. But few sports films get this element right. (If you want to watch one that does it right, check out Woodlawn.)
- What good came out of Caroline’s death? Should that help bring comfort to the family?
- Why was Caroline filled with joy? Why aren’t we living like that?
- What can we learn about overcoming tragedy and adversity from the story of West High?
Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
The Miracle Season is rated PG for some thematic elements.
— Michael Foust
I blog about fatherhood and have an awesome family. I also really like popcorn.