The Kendrick Brothers have made quite a name for themselves over the years. Christian households have been enjoying their films since the early 2000’s, but they have reached mainstream success in recent years with Fireproof (2008) starring Kirk Cameron, Courageous (2011), and last year’s War Room. I can personally attest that they have come a long way; each one is better than the last. Overcomer is not their first project that involves sports, but it’s certainly their strongest.
John Harrison (Alex Kendrick) is a high school basketball coach with his eyes set on winning the state championship. He’s built up a gifted team of players and everything points to a successful season until the local manufacturing plant shutters its doors, forcing dozens of families to leave in search of better opportunities. John is crushed as his roster dwindles down to almost nothing. At his principal’s insistence, he reluctantly agrees to coach cross country instead. His team is made up of one shy and troubled runner named Hannah (Aryn Wright-Thompson). Together, the two of them train for the race of their lives.
The relatability to all of the characters is one of the highlights of this film. They aren’t superheroes or super humans, but regular every day people grounded in the real world. Coach Harrison in particular is a very realistic character. He trained, planned, and dreamed of a championship for a long time. Having that dream ripped away so suddenly leaves him feeling lost, resentful, and unsure of himself. In frustration he begins to lash out at his wife Amy (Shari Rigby) and generally has a poor attitude towards everything. Which is why when Principal Brooks (Priscila Shirer) asks him to coach cross country he immediately rejects her.
To his dismay, Hannah is the only student who shows up for the first day of practice. She is painfully shy and has a tendency to swipe other’s belongings, but she does express an interest in running. Wright-Thompson is obviously a little green, but I can see why she won the role. As Hannah, she’s awkward, unassuming, quick to melt into the background, the kind of teenager who suffers from low self-esteem and is used to being overlooked.
Another relatable character is Thomas (Cameron Arnett), a bedridden patient at the local hospital who John meets by chance. As they get to know one another, Thomas challenges John in the area of his faith and calls him out for putting so many other things before his relationship with God. It’s a humbling moment for the protagonist and makes him re-evaluate his priorities. The scenes in the hospital between these two men are very moving. There is another scene worth mentioning, which comes at a pivotal moment for Hannah. She is led to Christ by Shirer’s character and I forgot that I was watching a movie for moment. Shirer is a mighty woman IRL so it was no surprise seeing her operate in her natural gifts as a teacher and preacher.
Just like the title of the film implies, each character faces some difficulty or obstacle that they must work to overcome. The filmmakers may be heavy-handed with the messaging, but in spite of that the story is still powerful and life-giving. You may say what you will about faith-based films, but they are on the rise because of their strong messages of triumph, hope and love. The fact that you can take the gospel of Jesus Christ, incorporate it into a film, then use it as a tool for ministry is pretty cool.
Overcomer is currently showing in theaters across the U.S. Check it out for yourself!
What do you allow to define you? Let me know in the comments down below!