It’s been a week since I saw McFarland, USA but still within the first five minutes of talking with friends, I find myself exhorting him or her to see this movie. The film is an allegory for our lives, here is why:
- The story deftly insinuates the willing viewer into the life of a football coach played by Kevin Costner whose career is circling around the drain. Either because of impatience, high standards, inability to control himself, or more likely, a combination of all three, he and his family end up in the tiny town of McFarland, USA, located on the central coast of California in the San Joaquin valley, where over ninety percent of the population is Hispanic. We’re given a pithy prelude when the exhausted family of four arrives in McFarland and the younger of the two daughters asks, as she looks around at the obvious poverty, the ramshackle housing, and all Spanish signs to ask, “Dad, are we in Mexico?”
- Our despairing protagonist becomes aware, in rapid succession, that he has moved his family to an impossible place, subjected his young blonde daughters and wife to all the dangers of Hispanic gang-bangers and lost his football career to boot.
- Until he begins to observe, to see the lives that these Hispanic kids live: The rare, here-to-fore hidden gifts and skills they possess.
The allegory is simple and beautiful. Rather than using sentimentalized dialogue, the screen writer and Director use the magic of film, truly fine film editing to create a story that turns our prejudices upside down, forces us to confront our willingness to see only what we expect to see thereby missing the ordinary and every-day miracles right in front of us.
Sure, it is a Disney film. And that’s what we expect in a Disney film, isn’t it? Happy endings, the ostensible witch- turned- princess. But at the end of this movie, rolls out the remarkable stories of these real boys, the seven original runners, the successive wins of McFarland High School; we see, for a minute or two, anyway, that there are ordinary people, living lives of quiet desperation, suddenly ignited by the force of a dream, who become heroes, authentic champions in this race called life.