Caroline “Line” Found (Danika Yarosh), Kelly (Erin Moriarty) and their volleyball teammates at Iowa City West High School are fresh off winning the state championship in 2010 and want to do it again. Line is going into her senior year and is a happy young woman who brings joy to all those around her. Her mother Ellyn (Jillian Fargey) is in the hospital fighting cancer and the prognosis is not good. Line’s dad Ernie (William Hurt) keeps things going at home for Line, whose older brother and sister are away at college.
After Bible study one evening at church, Line bids Kelly farewell, hops on her moped and heads home. No one is sure exactly what happens, but Line crashes into a tree and is killed instantly. The shock of her sudden death sends Kelly, the team, their coach Kathy Bresnahan (Helen Hunt), and the entire school into mourning.
Ellyn gathers all her strength and is determined to walk into the church at her husband’s side for Line’s funeral. Sadly, passes away a few days later.
Suddenly the volleyball team’s dream of another championship the second year in a row begins to fade; a feat never accomplished before by a girls’ high school team in Iowa but it may be a dream too far. But Coach Kathy sees that Kelly, even as she mourns her friend deeply, has the leadership skills to center the team and bring them to their hoped-for victory.
One of the most moving parts of the film is when Kelly goes to Ernie to ask him if it is okay for the team to move forward without Line and he gives them his blessing, knowing it is what his daughter would want him to do.
Sean McNamera, who is well known for Disney teen television programming such as “That’s So Raven” and discovering Hilary Duff, directs “The Miracle Season”. He directed “Soul Surfer” (2011), the true story about Bethany Hamilton, a young teen who makes her way back after losing an arm to a shark while surfing. As McNamera told journalists at the press day, he enjoys telling stories about people who are or can be role models for others.
“The Miracle Season” is deeply moving and explores the stages of grief for teens and adults while offering hope expressed in the love of friends, parents, coaches and parents. It’s also refreshing in the sense that it is about girls’ athletics, ability, skill determination and stalwart teamwork. Helen Hunt, and the real coach Kathy Bresnahan, were also at the press day and said that working with 15 young women every day – some actresses, other volleyball players - on set was like having lights turned on all around you.
To me, William Hurt excels as Line’s dad and he never abandons the team as they play their way through the season.
“The Miracle Season” is appropriate for most of the family but be sure to bring some Kleenex.