This article is part of our Classic Film Throwback series.
– By Sam Hendrian –
There is an old saying that we do not fully appreciate people or things until they are gone. This is often true for parent-child relationships, a theme which the 1989 sports/fantasy film Field of Dreams explores beautifully. The story of a rebellious son’s second chance to bond with his late father, it is tremendously thought-provoking and touching even thirty years later.
“If you build it, he will come.” When farmer Ray Kinsella first hears these words while strolling through a cornfield, he is confused and worried that he might be going crazy. Nevertheless, as mysterious and perhaps even divine forces continue to whisper in his heart and inspire him to build a baseball field on his farm, he boldly listens in the hope that he is fulfilling some sort of unspecified special purpose.
Constructing a baseball field in the middle of rural Iowa is not quite as wild for Ray as it might be for other people. From the moment he was born, Ray has ate, slept, and breathed baseball due to the influence of his now-deceased dad, minor leagues player John Kinsella. John perhaps dreamed of playing in the major leagues but never made it there, just like countless other young American men who settled down after World War II and pursued more reliable careers.
While young Ray grew to enjoy watching baseball quite a bit, he did not necessarily love playing it as much as John, and he fostered some resentment for his dad’s outright obsession with the sport. It seemed that John hoped to vicariously achieve his waning dreams through the talents of his son, talents that Ray neither had nor necessarily wanted to possess. He later remarks at one point in the film:
“By the time I was ten, playing baseball got to be like eating vegetables or taking out the garbage. So when I was fourteen, I started refusing. Can you believe that? An American boy refusing to have a catch with his father.”
Ray eventually turned his back on his father and left home at a young age to find his own place/purpose in the world. He was still an undeniable baseball fan, but not enough to pursue it as a career, and he felt compelled to spite his father for excessively forcing the sport upon him. Sadly, Ray never reconciled with John before his death.
When Ray builds the baseball field on his farm after hearing the mysterious voice, he starts to meet deceased baseball players who materialize out of the cornfield. Many of these players also had major league pipe dreams like Ray’s father, and the field gives them the opportunity to finally live these dreams in a sort of after-death fantasy experience.
At the end of the film, Ray comes face to face with a particular baseball player and realizes the ultimate purpose of his incredible backyard field of dreams. “If you build it, he will come.” That “he” is his father John, who now stands before him with a faded baseball uniform on his body and a youthful expression of optimism on his face. Moved with both guilt and the hopeful promise of reconciliation, Ray finds the strength to swallow his lifelong pride and say, “Hey, Dad… Do you wanna have a catch?” John smiles back at his son and replies, “I’d like that.” The two men then stand in the middle of the baseball field and play catch until the sun goes down, making up for their years of estrangement and renewing their profound love for each other.
Each of us has a unique relationship with the man who raised us. This relationship might be nearly perfect for some and absolutely toxic for others, but for many, it likely falls somewhere in between. There may have been days in our childhoods or even our adult lives when we failed to fully appreciate/spend quality time with our fathers, and vice versa. Words we once said in a fit of rash rage come back to haunt us with regret, and times when we improperly ordered priorities can also leave a wistful welt on our hearts.
Nevertheless, Field of Dreams reminds us that there is always hope for reconciliation and redemption in any of our relationships. Maybe it will not happen in this life, but it can most certainly happen in the next.
“Is there a heaven?” Ray asks his dad before their healing game of catch.
“Oh yeah,” John confidently replies. “It’s the place dreams come true.”
About the Author
Sam Hendrian is a student at John Paul the Great Catholic University (Class of 2019) pursuing an emphasis in Directing.
For more articles by Sam, click here.