Monday Movies: My All-American

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Aaron Eckhart, Finn Wittrock, Sarah Bolger

Directed by: Angelo Pizzo
Released: 2015
Length: 1h 58m

This weekend I watched a movie that was equal parts inspiration, motivation, and heartbreak. The casting was spot-on; the script was strong and well-planned. The film itself was well-executed.

But what made this movie a particular delight for me was how personal it was. I had meant to watch Just Like Heaven (which was recommended to me by David Elliot of the Single Dad's Guide To Life; he left it as a recommendation in the comments of my last Monday Movie), but it wasn't available on Netflix when I sat down to watch it, and so I went browsing for something else, planning to bump Just Like Heaven to a later post when I could be better prepared.

I happened at the moment to be texting with a close friend of mine, and mentioned that I was looking for something to watch, which led to a short discussion on movie genre preferences and a long discussion on what Netflix does and does not have available to stream currently. Eventually, this movie came up, the evening was passing me by, and after a quick glance at the plot summary (sprinkled liberally with trust in my friend's judgment), I was ready to give it a shot.

My All-American is a story of courage and determination; it's about a boy who wants nothing more than to play good football. He works hard, studies hard, prays hard, and is of course (because in movie land, it can simply not be any other way) totally cute. But high school is over, standards in college are higher, and his dreams are going up in smoke as one college after another turns him down because he's "too small." Until Texas.

By this time, I'm totally invested in the movie because I love this character (Freddie, I mean) - he's easy to love with his openness and his go-hard attitude, his willingness to give everything he has, and his inherent respect for everyone around him. So it's no surprise that he works his way quickly into the good graces of the coaching team, as well as that of his new teammates, and it's also no surprise that the team rises to the very top of college football.

But it wouldn't be nearly as strong a movie if everything had continued to flow so easily, would it? And so there was a moment of foreshadowing - where as I watched, I found myself shaking my head, whispering, "Oh, no," into the quiet dark of my bedroom. At that point the whole movie changed for me, and I caught myself running through the possibilities - of which, ironically, the one thing I should have thought of instantly didn't come to mind.

What followed was a remarkable story of determination and inner strength - the story of a man settling in to accept change that could not be fought off, the story of a woman standing by her man, the story of a dedicated coach who took the time to care about so much more than winning.

Hidden Delights From This Movie:
1. That first moment when Freddie and Linda lock eyes in the hallway at school, and you just know something big is going to happen.
2. The sense of glee that hit me when Freddie caught Linda and her friend spying on him, and the conversation that followed.
3. The way Freddie shared his dreams with Linda, pointing toward the places most relevant in his life, sharing his future with her as if he already knew she would be part of it.
4. Every scene showcasing Freddie's faith and how he leaned on his trust in God to carry him through the various challenges he encountered.
5. The stellar acting of Finn Wittrock. Throughout this movie, the emotional depth he leads to the character of Freddie Steinmark is unbeatable.
6. The thorough wrap-up at the end, right on down to the symbolism of relative immortality.

Yes, I loved it. And yes, I cried. It was a beautiful movie, and the fact that it's based so closely on the true story of real-life Freddie Steinmark, in conjunction to certain parallels between this movie and the friend who suggested it ... well, let's just say this one will stick with me for quite some time.

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