katrinaolson.ca - KO Review of McFarland

Posted on Saturday, February 21, 2015 at 03:00 AM

Movie: McFarland

KO Review of McFarland

Review by Katrina Olson-Mottahed X CalgaryMovies.com

McFarland opens in Boise, Idaho 1987 where high school football coach Jim White (played by Kevin Costner) loses his temper in the locker room on one of his arrogant privileged players after he makes a smug remark. We then see Coach White driving his disappointed wife Cheryl (played by Maria Bello) and two daughters Julie (played by Morgan Saylor) and Jamie (played by Elsie Fisher) through Corona, California. They end up in a very small latin community where stray dogs and chickens run wild. The house they move into has decaying stucco and a dirt backyard. When the White family settles in, they decide to go find a restaurant to eat to only find Mexican cuisine and it becomes clear they are a minority in the community and might be the only caucasian family on the block.

It is revealed through a series of conversations that The White family has moved to McFarland because it was the only school that would offer Coach White a teaching position with his tumultuous past for losing his temper. The McFarland high school has a shortage of teachers and the students come from families of “pickers”, agriculture workers or harvesters that make little money, but need to work from a young age to help support their large families.

Coach White has a rough start trying to teach physical education because his students harass him. They call him “Blanco” and “Homes”, they don’t respect authority and test his boundaries when it comes to instruction. He feels discouraged, he feels he has let his family down dragging them to this struggling neighbourhood.

One day while driving his daughters home from school White sees Thomas (played by Carlos Pratt) running to the fields to work and clocks his speed at 12 mph. The light bulb goes off in Coach White's head, that these kids' running ability could bring them far in a cross country meet coming up in Palo Alto, CA. Coach White presents the idea of the McFarland Cross Country Team to the school principal and students, only to be met with adversity and ridicule. The more time in physical education class Coach White spends with his students, the more he sees their potential in cross country running. One by one, Coach White singles the students out and entraps them to be part of the McFarland Cross Country Team. He trains them hard. The McFarland Cross Country Team comes in last place loss at their first cross country meet, discouraging the students.

Now Coach White must find another way to encourage and motivate the McFarland team. The home life for these students is rough; there are teen pregnancies, parents in jail, all made worse by the endless hours of work in the fields picking produce before and after school. Coach White decides to join the team in the field before school working as a “picker” bent over all day in the sun to see what his team goes through on a daily basis. Coach White quickly releases the strenuous effort these kids make just to earn a little money for their families and be in school everyday. It becomes clear he will need to navigate the cross country training around their work schedule, if he wants to make this McFarland team a success.


The only criticism towards this film are the obvious product placements of Coca Cola, Nike, Adidas…etc. We get it Disney, you are out to sell us brands. It could have been a bit more discreet.

McFarland has many parallels with the classic film Chariots of Fire (USA, 1982). Chariots of Fire was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay. It was also based on a factual story, just as McFarland, but was about a Scottish Christian and a Jew who run to overcome prejudice, instead of American immigrants. This movie is just as inspirational maybe more and is great for all ages.

McFarland opens in theatres everywhere Friday February 20, 2015. Check out CalgaryMovies.com for showtimes.

Calgary Showtimes: McFarland >

All images copyright Walt Disney Pictures Canada.


NOTE: The showtimes listed on CalgaryMovies.com come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to CalgaryMovies.com.