Sometimes, a movie with a sports-themed plot is about more than athletes and winning the game. These are the types of films that non-sports fans can enjoy equally, because there is a deeper meaning to the story. Rocky, Field of Dreams, Invictus, and The Blindside are just a few of the well-known titles that anyone can watch and enjoy. These films are not only for fans of the sport.
Forever Strong (2008) is certainly a lesser known film, but it is a rather high-caliber combination of acting and story-telling. Several of the characters in the movie are incredibly dynamic, and their evolution is graceful and well-played. Rick, a high-school rugby competitor (played by Sean Faris) plays ruthlessly during a match, and leads a careless and self-indulgent life. Rick’s father is the harsh, fault-finding rugby coach, (played by Neal McDonough) demanding his players assume the corrupt attitude to win at any cost.
A tragic accident throws Rick into a juvenile detention center, where, still belligerent, is fortunate enough to be allowed an opportunity to play for the Highland rugby team – and these young men have strong values. This team is encouraged to play the game with passion and live life with dignity and honor, under the protective and inspirational guidance of Coach Gelwix (played by Gary Cole).
The movie shows how remarkable different two rival rugby teams are, and how the players on each team are shaped by contrasting leadership style. Rick’s father has a vindictive coaching approach. He demands perfect performances and humiliates members of the team for making mistakes – and he is most unforgiving with his own son. In contrast, Highland Coach Gelwix encourages his players accept to acknowledge and learn from erroneous behavior.
Subtle but strong performances include the sensitive but solid Sean Astin, who runs the detention center and facilitates the Rick’s entry into the Highland Rugby team; Rick’s mother (played by Julie Warner), who so obviously loves her son unconditionally, but is reluctant to stand up to her headstrong husband; Rick’s group of former friends that refuse to change their reckless behavior even after a terrible accident; and Rick’s Highland rugby teammates, who are each intriguing, unique, and very likeable – though a few of these characters are a tad underdeveloped.
It is the subplots of this film that are gripping: Rick’s overly-critical father, his dangerously irresponsible friends, and his own refusal to adopt his Coach Gelwix’s principled philosophy. The underlying themes include perseverance, faith, and knowing that good can come out of every situation, even the greatest tragedies. Rick has a chance to mature and reach his potential both as a player, teammate, and a man. The movie follows a period of time where Rick experiences extreme situations of immense hope and loss. The question is, will he become the better for it?
Forever Strong is not simply a “feel good” movie, however, and contains some rather graphic scenes of rugby games (including the opening), that are rough and bloody, but are also entirely appropriate and compelling.
Forever Strong is a small film with a big heart.
“The Blindside,” Internet Movie Database.
“Field of Dreams,” Internet Movie Database.
“Forever Strong,” Internet Movie Database.
“Gary Cole,” Internet Movie Database.
“Invictus,” Internet Movie Database.
“Julie Warner,” Internet Movie Database.
“Neal McDonough,” Internet Movie Database.
“Rocky,” Internet Movie Database.
“Rugby Football,” Internet Movie Database.
“Sean Astin,” Internet Movie Database.
“Sean Faris,” Internet Movie Database.