If you're searching for a movie to see over the Christmas holidays that's good for the whole family, look no further than The Boys in the Boat, director George Clooney's latest project. In a country and world that is experiencing such profound polarization, the unity showcased in this story truly inspires.
The Boys in the Boat tells the true story of the University of Washington's junior varsity rowing team and their quest for gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics against great odds.
Joe Rantz (Callum Turner), an engineering student at the "U-Dub" (as us Washingtonians refer to the school), lives out of a car and stuffs paper into his shoe to cushion his foot against the gaping hole in the bottom. It's the height of the Great Depression and Joe is struggling to pay for tuition and everything else. When he hears that a part-time job and housing comes with a spot on the rowing team, he tries out for the eight-man crew. One of the lucky few chosen, Joe throws himself into training for something he's never done before, under the watchful eye of Coach Al Ulbrickson (Joel Edgerton).
Chris Diamantopoulos, James Wolk, and Joel Edgerton as Al Ulbrickson in "The Boys in the Boat." © 2023 MGM. All Rights Reserved.
A loner by nature, Joe learns to interact with his teammates. Encouraged to come out of his shell even more when he meets and starts dating Joyce Simdars (Hadley Robinson), Joe begins to open up about his troubled past, having been abandoned by his dad, Harry (Alec Newman), at age 14 and forced to fend for himself.
Callum Turner stars as Joe Rantz and Hadley Robinson as Joyce Simdars in "The Boys in the Boat." © 2023 MGM. All Rights Reserved.
George (Peter Guinness), the team's boatbuilder, takes Joe under his wing and during the hours they spend working on the shells (as the racing boats are called), he imparts to Joe snippets of wisdom he never got from his own father.
The Boys in the Boat, based on the non-fiction book by Daniel James Brown and screenplay by Mark L. Smith, is a masterful piece of storytelling. Even though the outcome is known going in, you will still find yourself rooting for this group of underdogs.
It takes a lot of courage to stand up to "the establishment" (in this case, the governing body at the University) and demand something revolutionary. Yet that is what Coach Ulbrickson did when he insisted that the junior varsity crew try out for the Olympics instead of the varsity team. He saw something in them that no one else did.
Sam Strike, Thomas Elms, Joel Phillimore, Tom Varey, Wil Coban, Bruce Herbelin-Earle, Callum Turner, Jack Mulhern and Luke Slattery in "The Boys in the Boat." © 2023 MGM. All Rights Reserved.
I was most impressed with the character of Bobby (Luke Slattery). He was the boat's coxswain (pronounced KOK-sen), and was responsible for guiding the boat and motivating the rowers. Bobby took it upon himself to get to know each member of the crew so he knew how best to encourage each individual. Without Bobby, the boat wasn't going anywhere.
It makes me think of how God is with us. God knows us individually, more intimately that we could ever imagine. God knows exactly what we need, even when we think otherwise. God motivates and encourages us, if only we would look to him for guidance, like the rowers looked to their coxswain.
The Boys in the Boat all learned how to be in unison with each other. As an old Joe tells his grandson at the end, "We were never eight, we were one."