McFarland USA, directed by Niki Caro, is the inspiring true story of how a group of seven high schoolers in one of America’s poorest cities found their voice. When former football coach Jim White (Kevin Costner) moves his family to McFarland, he begins to take notice of how astonishingly fast some of his students could run long distances. They acquired their speed from running back and forth from school to the fields where they and their families worked everyday. Immediately recognizing their talent, White gathered seven boys that didn’t even own proper running shoes, and made a cross country team that went down in history.
One thing that was very prominent in the film was the development of the character Thomas Valles (Carlos Pratts). He instantly stood out as the strongest runner, but was reluctant to join the team. He put his work in the fields as his first priority because that is what was helping put food on his family’s table and clothes on their backs. But once cross country became part of his life, his life opened up in ways that no one expected. Running turned into an outlet for Thomas, and it became the one stable thing that he could rely on. The most admirable feature of the character is his strength. Not only physical strength but mental strength. There were times when he was the one who held his team together, because without cross country they had no other way to release themselves. He managed to draw strength from everyday of hard work spent in the fields wishing for something better, and running was his something better. On a different note, the movie accurately portrayed the cross country sport.
“The movie shows how they practiced, got ready for the races, and how they felt during the races. One of the hardest parts about cross country is the hills and they ran a lot of hills in the movie. Our coach rides his bike right next to us during practice and that’s what their coach did.” Says junior cross country runner Sierra Aigner. Even though the movie more specifically focused on the exceptional work ethic of the team, the accuracy of the way cross country was depicted was an important factor in the overall quality of the film.
To conclude, McFarland USA was heartwarming, and truly inspirational movie. The fact that seven high schoolers living in one of America’s poorest cities were able to be champions, shows that anything can be achieved by growing and becoming stronger through the everyday hardships. I would highly recommend this film to anyone.