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McFarland, USA | Film review - Kevin Costner hits his stride as an inspirational running coach

McFarland USA Kevin Costner
McFARLAND, USA..Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner)..Ph: Ron Phillips..?Disney 2015 (Image credit: Ron Phillips)

Kevin Costner hits his stride as an inspirational running coach in McFarland, USA, director Niki Caro's stirring sports drama based on a true story.

McFARLAND, USA..Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner)..Ph: Ron Phillips..?Disney 2015 (Image credit: Ron Phillips)

Kevin Costner is in his element as the gruff sports coach who leads a bunch of scrappy underdogs to unlikely triumph in McFarland, USA, a stirring sports drama (opens in new tab) set in 1987 and based on a true story.

Fired from his previous job at an Idaho high school, Costner’s Jim White reluctantly takes a position in a hardscrabble Southern California town whose residents are almost exclusively poor and Hispanic.

He and his wife (Maria Bello) and two young daughters couldn’t be more out of place. If he could, he would flee back to the world of the white middle class at the earliest opportunity. Yet when he gets to know his students, he comes to admire their grit and pluck.

McFarland USA

(Image credit: Ron Phillips)

Inspired by the endurance they show running to and from the fields where they work before and after school alongside their families, he decides to form a seven-strong cross-county running squad to take on teams from wealthier schools across the state.

Director Niki Caro, the New Zealander behind 2002’s Whale Rider, isn’t afraid to tread a conventional path in her storytelling, but her deep sympathy for her subjects and sure filmmaking touch ensures that you will have a lump in the throat, a tear in the eye and possibly even a stitch in the side by the time her runners reach the finishing line.

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Certificate PG. Runtime 129 mins. Director Niki Caro

McFarland, USA is currently showing on Sky Cinema Premiere and is available on DVD, courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-VAOlHGE6Q

 

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.