McFarland, USA | Film review – Kevin Costner hits his stride as an inspirational running coach

Kevin Costner hits his stride as an inspirational running coach in McFarland, USA, director Niki Caro's stirring sports drama based on a true story.

McFarland USA Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner is in his element as the gruff sports coach who leads a bunch of scrappy underdogs to unlikely triumph in McFarland, USA, a stirring sports drama set in 1987 and based on a true story.

Fired from his previous job at an Idaho high school, Costner’s Jim White reluctantly takes a position in a hardscrabble Southern California town whose residents are almost exclusively poor and Hispanic.

He and his wife (Maria Bello) and two young daughters couldn’t be more out of place. If he could, he would flee back to the world of the white middle class at the earliest opportunity. Yet when he gets to know his students, he comes to admire their grit and pluck.

McFarland USA

Inspired by the endurance they show running to and from the fields where they work before and after school alongside their families, he decides to form a seven-strong cross-county running squad to take on teams from wealthier schools across the state.

Director Niki Caro, the New Zealander behind 2002’s Whale Rider, isn’t afraid to tread a conventional path in her storytelling, but her deep sympathy for her subjects and sure filmmaking touch ensures that you will have a lump in the throat, a tear in the eye and possibly even a stitch in the side by the time her runners reach the finishing line.


Certificate PG. Runtime 129 mins. Director Niki Caro

McFarland, USA is currently showing on Sky Cinema Premiere and is available on DVD, courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.