In 2013, Daniel James Brown published a non-fiction novel about a Depression-era crew team that had an unlooked-for rendezvous with destiny. The book went on to become a bestseller and now arrives on screen, under George Clooney’s direction, as “The Boys in the Boat” (Amazon MGM).
This rousing sports drama promotes positive values and showcases a sweetly innocent romance. As a result, many parents may consider it acceptable for older adolescents, a smattering of bad language notwithstanding.
Mark L. Smith’s script centres on isolated, cash-strapped University of Washington student Joe Rantz (Callum Turner). Mainly attracted by the job that accompanies membership on the squad, he tries out for a seat in the school’s eight-man junior varsity scull.
Joe survives the gruelling regime supervised by the school’s taciturn, hard-driving rowing coach, Al Ulbrickson (Joel Edgerton), and his good-humoured assistant, Tom Bolles (James Wolk). He also rekindles his relationship with his childhood sweetheart, Joyce Simdars (Hadley Robinson), while developing a friendship with the Huskies’ master boatbuilder, George Pocock (Peter Guinness).
Smith paces the film’s races with gentle comedy and understated emotional complications. And his screenplay emphasises, through all the vicissitudes Joe and his pals endure, that dedication and cooperation can sometimes yield spectacular results.
Clooney recently told deadline.com of his love for stories set in the depression era.
“I’ve always loved that period of time, and this idea that we had to do stuff together to succeed,” he said.
“I can be cynical at times, but I’m always pretty optimistic about who we are, even as a country, as humanity, even when we go through really terrible periods of time. The idea of this story is, we’re in this together and the only way this works is together. You can’t do it on your own. Even if you were the best athlete, you’re going to lose unless you were willing to be part of a system. That reminded me of so many other parts of American society. We do consider ourselves still an underdog nation, which is funny, because we’re a superpower. But we were not born to royalty, so there is always a room to advance, there’s always a chance. That wasn’t necessarily the case in 1936.”
Picture: Bruce Herbelin-Earle stars as Shorty Hunt, Callum Turner as Joe Rantz and Jack Mulhern as Don Hume in a scene from the movie “The Boys Boat.”