McFarland, USA (2015)

McFarland seems to be off the beaten track with its dust, long fields, and pickers out in the early morning rush to make a living from the vegetation gardens. But this is life outside of the city that for any city dweller would be a bit of a culture shock. With a favourable eye on the community, Whale Rider’s Niki Caro directs proceedings in this Walt Disney drama production that exudes warmth and is not humourless. McFarland looks like a good place to live and get to know people going by the presentation here, while their hard-working lives, and the issues they face, isn’t swept under the carpet, and coach Jim White’s entrance into the town is fraught with teething problems, all coated in a wholesome, Walt Disney-ish glow. McFarland’s high school cross country team were underdogs until coach Jim White took them under his wing and exploited their athletic potential to the point of state-wide success. Played by Kevin Costner, White, as he was affectionately referred to by his down-to-earth, self-aware runners, is portrayed as a struggling yet doggedly determined mastermind behind the team’s rise. Watching it all happen on the screen elevates this minor league film to radiant success. 3/4.