Family tragedies are difficult at best, and trying to make an inspiring film out of tremendous loss is a huge challenge. Thankfully, the Abbate story doesn't end at the tragedy, but moves on to triumph and victory
When 15-year-old Luke Abbate (Stefan Guy) is killed in a tragic car accident, the loss leaves his close-knit family reeling with grief. Fueled by faith and their deep familial bond, the Abbates try to rebuild their lives without Luke, fulfilling his wish to help others by donating his organs to save the lives of five other people. But despite the support of loving friends and family, his death leaves a void in their lives that threatens to tear the family apart.
Struggling with the devastating loss, Luke’s older brother Jon (Ryan Merriman), a gifted football player at Wake Forest University, decides to honor his brother’s memory and love for the game by dedicating the 2006 season to him. With the added motivation of “playing for two,” he dons Luke’s beloved No. 5 jersey and inspires his teammates to play the best football of their lives—and become the most improved team in America. Predicted to finish last in their division, the Wake Forest football team surpassed all expectations by winning an unforgettable championship season.
We Love Underdogs
Most people love underdog stories. Give us a sports team in the basement [as long as it's not a pro team] and we will root them right out of there up to victory. Especially when there's something more than athletic ability at stake, like the memory of a life taken before its time.
This story goes deeper than football and delves into the fabric of a family that is torn apart by grief and sudden loss. Parents struggle with honoring their son's desire to be an organ donor. A marriage begins to unravel under the strain of dealing with their pain, and a brother's life suddenly centers around something more than his own immediate needs and wants.
Go Through the Darkness
Director Rick Bieber doesn't rush the tragic part of the story, finding the moments of deepest ache and bringing them to life with painful precision. As the parents struggle to survive, problems within their marriage that were previously hidden surface, forcing them to find new reasons to remain together.
As Steve and MaryAnne Abbate, Aidan Quinn and Andie McDowell give powerful performances, not shying away from raw emotions. Ryan Merriman is convincing as the brother who takes up the #5 jersey and carries the football in his brother's memory. The big disappointment for me was the lack of attention given to the boys' sister. She's not much more than a prop to the story, but her very presence gives you the feeling there's a lot more there than mets the eye.
The Abbates' story is poignant and compelling, and in the end reminds us of the strength of the human spirit to overcome adversity and, in the darkest hours, to find hope hidden in despair.
THE 5TH QUARTER is rated PG for mild language and sports action.
Courtesy of the producer and a national publicist, Angela previewed THE 5TH QUARTER.