McFarland USA – Movie Review

McFarland USA - Movie Review

Valerie Pham, Photojournalist

McFarland USA was released in theaters on February 20, 2015. The film is based on true story that takes place in rural California and its population predominantly consists of Mexican-American immigrants. The story was inspired by events that occurred in 1987. The film is an uplifting portrayal of the old fashioned underdog story.


Kevin Kostner stars as Jim White, a man is constantly moving his family from town to town in search of a new job. His job-hopping led him to a town called McFarland where became a Life Science and Physical Education. He noticed that his students ran exceptionally well, which prompted his idea of starting a cross-country team. He had witnessed his students running to fields after school and learned that when they wake up in the morning, they go work in the fields, go straight to school, than back to the fields. His idea was originally met with doubts and was rejected by the school principal, but that didn’t stop him. He later came back to the principal prepared with evidence of the advantages of having a cross country team. He bans together a rag-tag group of seven boys and from there the movie progresses to race after race. Soon enough, the boys hard work pays off and the have the support of the entire town on their backs. He developes a bond with all seven boys. the story mainly focuses on the fastest of the boys, Thomas Valles. Despite his difficult home life, he stepped up for his team and led the team all the way to state championships. The boys anxiously and excitedly prepare for the first ever California Cross Country State Championships. When the race begins it is shown that one boy in particular starts off to fast and burns himself out. An unsuspecting teammate holds his spot at the number five position, pushing them into first place, winning the first ever California State Championship.


The movie gave the audience several laughs throughout the film truly keeping it a family friendly movie. The audience stays captivated throughout the journey of these seven hard-working boys. The movie raises several topics because of where they are from. Other cross country teams heckle the boys with racial slurs and address the theme of racial tension between the competing teams.


Although several inspiring sports films of the same variety as McFarland USA, it hits closer to home for some cross-country runners at Yorba Linda High School. A freshman on the team Christina Aparicio stated, “Being on a cross country team myself, I know how difficult it is to run, and this movie embodies the sport perfectly. It has inspired me to not only be a better runner, but a better person as well.” Another freshmen, although not on the team had some words about the movie. Freshman Lauren Hutchison statef, “Danny Diaz is an inspiration to all of us, there is a Danny Diaz in all of us.” Jim White, the man who inspired the film says, “I never set out to leave a legacy. I just always wanted to do the best I could do and the guys understand that they need to try and always do the best they can do.” Since winning the state championship, White has retired from coached but not before he won a state record of nine CIF state championships. Although he is still retired he has served as a volunteer coach and frequently attends practices. The end of the film cuts to the actual McFarland High School cross country team training with the original team. Some of the alumni of the original team currently run the cross country programs.