McFarland USA: A Movie Review

If you loved Cool Running about the Jamaican Bobsled team, you’re going to love McFarland USA. Rated PG, it’s for the whole family, young, old and really old!

Jim White (Kevin Costner) was a teacher who had once again been fired for speaking his mind. Going against the grain was what he did best. In the early 80s, he packed up his family and moved to where there was the only teaching job he could find: McFarland, California. McFarlandUSA54612f1f790f3

If you’ve never heard of McFarland, you’re in good company. I’m from the Central Valley of California and I had never heard of it. While it’s a little farther south than where I lived, it was still totally off my radar. This town of 13,500 inhabitants is primarily an agriculture town. Another strategic factor is that you can see the prison from there; close, too close. Most of the people in McFarland work in the fields and try to stay out of the prison.

McFarland is a movie about heart, family and fate. As Jim started teaching and his family settled in he started to look for a way to help the school, the kids and the community. Every day he would see some boys running to school and then leaving the same way, running. His younger daughter commented one day about how fast the boys ran. A seed started to grow. Jim White had never run track, much less coached it but the seed of a plan started to germinate. From that seed to nine, yes nine, State

Championships was quite the journey. It seems that these teenagers were running to and from the fields where they spent many hours a day working in the hot sun helping to support their families.

For the Whites, I’m sure it felt they had moved to another country but they eventually became an integral part of the McFarland community. In order to be on the track team these kids didn’t just stay after school for practice, they still worked in the fields, went to school and on top of that, went to a grueling practice. It wasn’t easy to convince these families to let their kids join the team. Firstly, because of the time away from the family endeavors but also because, for the most part, this was a town without a dream. These kids never even considered going to college, finding a better job or leaving McFarland.

Jim White taught them to “run fast, work hard and to have a dream bigger than picking almonds or avocados, because champions can come from anywhere!” This film is about a Team turning into a Family.

The beautiful part of this story is the result of Jim White’s efforts. I won’t spoil it but be sure to stay till the end! Coach White’s belief that in the end it comes down to who can handle the pain, truly made a difference, not only in his life and his family’s but also a whole community. This movie is for anybody and everybody. Rent or buy it today and give me a “shout out” at chastings@rockcliff.com

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