Written and directed by Maggie Kaszuba, ‘Inspired’ is a 2015 student thesis film that hit the festival circuit and is a “love letter” to a real-life inspiration. Starring Tyler Kipp as Sam and Ariane M. Reinhart as Coach Stafford, the film follows the interaction between a student and her basketball coach.
Sam Higgins (Kipp) has time keeping issues and is a lonely teenager with with an uncommunicative family environment. Coach Stafford is a gruff woman who tries to drum into the young women the importance of respecting her teammates and herself. The two are at loggerheads for most of the film.
Higgins is on some sort of medication quite possibly anti-depressants although it is never specified what the bottle of pills are that she looks at in her bedroom. The type of medication is not important. What is worth noting is the longing way Sam looks at the stuff.
An unhappy young lady, she tells the coach that basketball is the only thing she loves. Despite this she continues to shamble through her days and to falter on the commitment to both game and coach. During a practice Higgins cannot concentrate and is pulled out of the exercise. The assistant coach has a word with the girl.
Sam is late one too many times and Stafford (Reinhart) confronts the student and the teenager leaves angrily. When her coach goes after her the two get into an argument. Both are upset after their verbal altercation and later Stafford goes to see Higgins.
This visit becomes a turning point, in more ways than one.
At just over 20 minutes long, this first time effort by Kaszuba manages to say a lot and cover many bases. Life, death, the agony of being a teenager and our own mortality are all looked at. It also salutes those people who inspire us to do better or to keep reaching for that dream.
Kaszuba and her cast pull the heart strings with a capability that is impressive. Anyone watching this film who does not reach for the tissue box at least once must have a heart of stone. Kipp and Reinhart are very good as the main protagonists and Chris Viemeister is perfect as the caring assistant coach who tries to make the teenager see that her “hard-arse” coach means only the best.
At the end of the film is a dedication to Kathy Snyder, the individual the film is a love letter to. An woman who obviously inspired the filmmaker in many ways and Kaszuba says so on the film’s Facebook page.
This is a subtle film without all the flashy drama could have taken the project into “After School Special” territory. Whatever issues Sam has are hinted at and the big reveal later about the coach is also only alluded to early on. It is done very effectively.
‘Inspired’ will leave the viewer with a lump in their throat and maybe even a tear or two, but the overall feeling will be one of inspiration and a sort of peripheral gratitude for those people in our own lives who have given us the right sort of guidance.
A 3.5 out of 5 stars for an impressive start out the gate with a film that does not use OTT dramatics to tell its story. Watch this one and then watch for Maggie Kaszuba.