Movies about women in sports can be incredibly inspirational, but unfortunately, they still feel relatively rare. Films like Bend It Like Beckham and A League of Their Own come along only once in a while, but when they do, it's easy to understand why women cling to them so tightly. The camaraderie and sisterhood that arises when women play a sport together can lead to lifelong friendships, and lessons carried into adulthood. So when a movie manages to capture that feeling, it's worth celebrating, and The Miracle Season, based on a true story, falls right into that category. As its star, Helen Hunt, tells Bustle, there's simply nothing like the connections made by woman playing sports, whether it's for an actual game or even just for a movie.
"The fellowship and support is real as it was off screen as it was on," says Hunt, who plays the coach of a women's high school volleyball team in the new movie, out April 6. "This group circles up together and supports each other — that's the experience of the women in my life. I don't have an experience of women being competitive with me or not rooting for me, I have the opposite experience. For a movie to celebrates that is a good thing all around."
The Miracle Season tells the real-life story of the Iowa City West High School volleyball team who, after winning the state championship in 2010, experienced unspeakable tragedy the following year. The team's captain, Caroline "Line" Found, whose vivacious personality and supportive nature inspired everyone on the team, died in a tragic motor accident. A week later, Found's mother passed away from her long battle with cancer. As the movie depicts, the team was inundated with sadness, but they managed to play through their grief. And, with the leadership of a new captain and a tough love coach (Hunt) who wouldn't give up on them, they came up from behind and earned another shot at the state championship.
While the movie pays attention to all of the team members, it's coach Kathy Bresnahan who takes center stage. And although some actors might be daunted by the prospect of playing a real person, Hunt says that the fact that the real Bresnehan was so willing to be involved in the film was an asset. "I was so lucky to have this resource who was willing to fly to California to show me and walk me through it," the actor explains. "She showed me how to hold a volleyball. She coached my daughter a little bit in volleyball, so I got to watch a little bit how she worked with people."
And Hunt's relationships with the young women who play her team members, including Erin Moriarty (Jessica Jones) and Danika Yarosh (Heroes: Reborn), are as strong, if not stronger, than many others she's made through the industry over the years. "They were just all so great," Hunt says of her young castmates. "It's just a unique thing where everybody is still in touch — they are all, including my daughter, on a big thread, texting each other, rooting for each other, hanging out on holidays, more than almost any other movie I've been on."
Like many other movies about women in sports, The Miracle Season nails the thrill of competition, and the closeness that players feel with their teammates as a result of working so hard at something together. But one unique experience the film manages to capture is how that sense of sisterhood can help its members deal with personal tragedies off the court, like the death of Found. "I play someone trying to navigate the impossible, which is allowing them to grieve while trying to leave a space for them to come back on their feet," Hunt says. "That's what I saw this woman trying to pull off."
It's those strong, uplifting female relationships that make The Miracle Season a movie that will likely be a repeat watch for any young woman with fond memories of high school sports. With an emotional core and the suspenseful air of competition, the film nails those warm, fuzzy feelings so many women get when remembering how close they were with their teammates, how awesome it felt to kick some butt, and how necessary sisterhood was — and still is — in so many ways.