That “The Miracle Season” is based on a true story makes it tough to endure and to review, because it’s no pleasure to report that filmmakers have turned real-life tragedy and tenacity into a manipulative weepie. From lighting to music cues, “The Miracle Season” never misses a chance to lunge for your tear ducts, treating its characters less as flesh-and-blood humans than as props for delivering bromides.
Directed by Sean McNamara, “The Miracle Season” recounts the journey of the Iowa City West High School girls’ volleyball team, whose star player, Caroline Found (Danika Yarosh), known as Line, died in a moped accident in August 2011, shortly before her mother (Jillian Fargey) died of cancer.
Line’s absence leaves the team members barely able to brush their teeth, as their coach, Kathy Bresnahan (Helen Hunt), who wrote a book of the same title, puts it. She and Caroline’s friend Kelley Fliehler (Erin Moriarty) must help them defend a state championship.
Yet moment after moment feels calculated. The way Line’s parting glance with Kelley is filmed signals that this won’t be a temporary separation. The movie trivializes the team’s endurance by relegating a lengthy winning streak to a montage. No one’s hair gets too mussed. Those announcing and reporting on the games need sensitivity training.
“I may be the surgeon, but you’re the healer out there,” Line’s father (William Hurt), a doctor, advises Kelley at one point. Even if he said that, it’s too purple on screen.